The Flood of 1938

On September 21 and September 22, 1938, New England experienced a devastating category-5 hurricane which caused massive damage and incurred many hundreds of casualties (both fatalities and injuries). North Adams was mostly spared from wind damage and ravages experienced in town further east, but precipitation in the days following the hurricane resulted in huge flooding in the city.

Workers left the Arnold Print Works from the day shift at four o’clock.  As they walked across the Marshall Street bridge they noticed a decidedly heavier flow of water beneath it than when they had crossed it in the morning.  By five o’clock the Hoosic was splashing over the top of the span into the  street and leaves and branches were being stripped from the city’s trees.  As darkness fell in North Adams, the Hoosic was out of control and streets became dark as power was lost. By late afternoon on the 21st, the Hoosic had once again escaped its banks and flood waters soon began to rush into North Adams streets.

The northern branch of the Hoosic followed almost the exact path of destruction it had wrought in 1927, but at a much higher volume than any flood before – at its peak, the waters reached a heigh of eleven feet ten inches above normal at the railroad depot. Beaver Street to Union Street were badly washed out, and Willow Dell, River Street, Main Street, and Fairgrounds were heavily flooded again. Front Street was completely carved away by water, leaving houses to teeter precariously over the raging river below. Flood water extended across the valley, all the way from the campus of the college to the west side of old State Street.