August 26, 2011

With the threat of Hurricane Irene dominating the news, here is a story about a big one that hit Levittown in 1954. Do you remember Hurricane Carol?

These striking photos show the flooded intersection of Hilltop Road and Valley Road

Click on photos to enlarge

With news reports that Hurricane Irene is potentially a serious threat to the east coast of the United States, including Long Island, it might be of interest to revisit blog posts from early December of last year. They were about Hurricane Carol which inundated Levittown in August 1954. So here goes:

At the time of landfall on far eastern Long Island and the eastern Connecticut coast, the sustained winds in Carol were around 110-mph, with gusts in the 125 to 135-mph range. Like a devastating 1938 hurricane, Carol accelerated northward form Virginia to Long Island. The combination of 110-mph sustained winds and a forward speed of near 40-mph... produced some of the strongest wind gusts ever measured in the North Atlantic states. Montauk Point Lighthouse reported gusts to 120-mph.

Along the eastern Connecticut coast, from Saybrook Point to Groton Long Point, wind gusts over 100-mph were reported. Wind gusts of 120 to 135-mph blasted across Southern Rhode Island as the state was hit squarely by the damaging eastern half of the tropical cyclone.

The name Carol was used again in the 1965 season, and was planned for use during the 1969 hurricane season before it was replaced with the name Camille. Due to serious destruction during 1954, however, the name will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. Carol was the first Atlantic hurricane name in history to be retired.


Wally Linder, class of 1961:
I remember that day in August 1954 that Carol hit Levittown. We were new residents, just having moved in May of that year. We lived on Haymaker Lane up by the Hicksville border.

My Mother somehow got into work, but my Father, brother and I were home. We had a pear tree in the middle of the front lawn, and my Father really loved that tree. The wind bent the tree all the way over and he feared that it might be lost.

In the middle of the hurricane my Father went out to tie down the pear tree. He barely made it to the tree, and had to turn around, because the wind was too strong. My brother Paul and I watched him crawl back with his fingers dug into the sod. At one point he went completely horizontal, like a flag, and just barely made it back in the house. My brother and I thought it was the funniest thing, not realizing how dangerous it really was.

Joan Bartels Signorelli, class of 1962:
I remember the storm vividly. We were living on Woodpecker Lane in the ranch with the fireplace on both sides, kitchen and living room. The water from the storm just poured down the chimney and we were flooded and mopping for hours.

Sandra Gail Adams, class of 1960:
I also remember Hurricane Carol. When the winds began to really pick up, my mother sent me out into the back yard to hold on to the new, small Weeping Willow, so that it wouldn’t get blown down and uprooted or broken. I didn’t last too long at my assignment – I was having too much trouble trying to keep my (then small) body erect!

Wendy Max Dunford, class of 1968:
I was only four years old then, but I remember my older brother going out to the back yard to tie the patio furniture to the apple tree to keep it from flying away. I remember the storm hitting then seeming to stop, and I thought it was over. I heard my mother say it was just the eye of the storm, but I had no idea what that meant. Then a while later, the storm came back with a vengeance. We lived at the bottom of Schoolhouse Road where it met Valley Road for two years, before moving up Schoolhouse Road to the top of the hill into #37 where we lived from 1954 to 1975.

From Jo-Ann Martin Fink, class of 1966, who provided the photos:
Here is a little info on the flood picture. The one looking across to Hilltop is taken from the upstairs of 6 Hilltop Road. This was the home of Harold and Paulette Gast. They left Levittown a few years later and moved to Lawrence and then to California. Harold Gast was a writer and producer. He co-wrote "A Woman named Golda".

Thank you to Jo-Ann Martin Fink for providing these photos. She lived at 1 Hilltop Road and was one of the first Levittown babies. Her family moved into their house on October 15, 1947, about two weeks after the first residents unpacked.

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