Chapter 11

Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955

by Mary A. Shafer

Excerpt from Chapter 11:

When they’ve moved all they can move, the Scisses decide to take a walk uptown to see how Upper Black Eddy is faring. They walk back along the canal towpath, because it sits higher than most of the surrounding fields. They watch as the fire company evacuates many of the residents. An elderly woman, Mrs. Dotter, refuses to get in the rowboat that the department has maneuvered to her window.

As they watch the ensuing argument, one of their neighbors calls their attention to a chicken coop floating down the river, complete with chickens on its roof. They move closer to see what else is coming down. For quite some time, they watch in awe as sheds, outbuildings and even houses bob in the current until they’re pushed up against the bridge. Then, under the massive, brute force of the onrushing water, they explode in a salvo of snapping studs that sound like gunshots. The pop and tinkle of breaking glass provides a high counterpoint, and a low whoosh of air expelling from enclosed spaces beats a nearly subconscious bass line in the dreadful symphony of destruction.

Lester looks behind them and sees the water beginning to come up from the canal, as well. If it gets too deep, they won’t be able to get back home, so he, Eleanor and their neighbors start back down toward their houses. The water gets gradually deeper until they’re wading waist-deep along the road back toward the river. They realize they’ve foolishly placed themselves in danger of being swept off their feet, and link hands to keep from losing anyone.