Disasters in Ludlow

Although the location of Ludlow in the Northeast of the United States is relatively safe from tornadoes and hurricanes, they have hit Ludlow before causing massive damage. Ludlow has also seen its share of violent winter weather and flooding. This page will highlight some of the disasters that have hit Ludlow in the past and could happen again in the future.

The Great Blizzard of 1888

The forecast for Sunday March 11, 1888 talked about fair, slightly warmer weather with some rain later on. Although the day seemed to follow this forecast, at around 9:00pm it began to snow lightly. By the next morning the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees and gale-force winds made it feel as though it was well below 0. The snow stalled out a train on the tracks headed to Indian Orchard and another train from Chicago had to stay in the station. Passengers on the trains would be stuck there until Thursday and relied on people who lived nearby to supply them with food and fuel to keep the furnaces on the Chicago train generating heat. There was also a child in need of medical attention on one of the trains and the only doctor who was able to be reached was Dr. James Hannum, who lived in Ludlow and had a telephone (only four others in Ludlow had telephones at the time).

Similar to travel on railroads, all other travel in the area also stopped. Seventeen people who were at the town house on Monday were forced to stay the night there. Those that did try to reach their homes during the storm were nearly all forced to find shelter in someone else's house by the storm. This is still considered to be the worst snowstorm on record for much of New England and is number 1 on a list (link no longer available) of the worst snow storms in the U.S. by the NOAA. According to the NOAA, the storm "dumped 50 inches of snow in Connecticut and Massachusetts while New Jersey and the state of New York had 40 inches. Drifts of 40 to 50 feet high buried houses and trains. From Chesapeake Bay to Nantucket, 200 ships were sunk with 400 lives lost." None of the fatalities were Ludlow citizens.

The Hurricane of 1938

In September of 1938 a powerful hurricane was heading towards Florida across the Atlantic Ocean. Much to the relief of those that lived in Florida the storm took a turn to the north without hitting the state and was predicted to go out to sea. As the storm would likely follow the coast north for a bit, most ships stayed in port, making it impossible to track the storm after it went north. Although one person at the Washington D.C. Weather Bureau predicted the path that the storm would take, he was ignored as he was younger and less experienced. Other than him, no one would know that the storm would hit New England until it was too late. Once the storm hit land, it knocked out communications, preventing any warning of the impending storm for Ludlow.

In Ludlow the Chicopee River was already at flood stage due to an abnormally rainy summer. At around 2 o'clock on Wednesday, September 21 the wind picked up rapidly as the Hurricane started to hit Ludlow. The wind was able to take branches off of trees and remove roofing from houses as it continued to get stronger. The winds were measured at 120mph and the gusts were measured at 185mph. Those measurements were taken more than 100 miles away from the center of the storm, which would pass right over Ludlow. One can only speculate as to the speed of the gusts and wind that hit Ludlow on that day. After they eye passed over Ludlow and the winds became even stronger than they were, many trees that withstood the previous winds were knocked down. By the time night fell on Ludlow the storm had passed on its way north to Canada, where it would weaken and break apart.

It had been two generations since a hurricane went inland over New England on September 23, 1815. It was a very rare occurrence that was only possible in 1938 due to two high pressure systems preventing the hurricane from moving either east or west. The storm was also strengthened by the jet stream as it moved north towards New England. The storm killed about 600 people overall, none of them from Ludlow. The storm did cause a lot of property damage, however. The main cause of the damage could be attributed to the winds of the storm, which knocked down many trees and blew the roofs off of houses. One house was actually lifted from its foundation and flipped onto its side. There was also damage caused by the many bodies of water around Ludlow. The Chicopee River cut across what is now Ventura Street and set a record for water flow speed that has yet to be matched today. A ditch can still be seen today where the water cut across the street between where the houses of Carl Newcomb and William Golden once stood. Further downstream, the river also went around the Collins Dam and took out the wooden covered bridge that was replaced by a green iron bridge. The West Street Bridge was also damaged beyond repair and was replaced with a green iron bridge. At this time, the only way to cross the Chicopee River into town was the bridge leading to Indian Orchard by the mills.