It rained a lot that fall. By the end of October the ground throughout Vermont was thoroughly saturated, and by early November even an average storm would have caused flooding.
It started to rain again on the evening of November 2nd, and then the next morning and into the afternoon it poured. Seven inches of rain fell in six hours on November 3rd. By 4 p.m., the Winooski River rolled over its banks and down Montpelier’s streets. By night, the river topped out, 12 feet above the downtown sidewalks.
Roy Buxton got into Burlington just after the bridge to Winooski washed out, just in time to join the crowd that watched the firemen dynamite the gristmill in a desperate attempt to enlarge the engorged river channel. The next day, when he travelled to Jeffersonville, he watched a forlorn farmer haul 50 drowned cows out of a barn.
Ruby Dalley was living on Winooski Street, right near the iron bridge over the river. “My father had gone up the street to get groceries because we didn’t know what was going to happen. While he had gone down the street, my mother and I are standing in the door, and we hear a terrible, terrible crash of the bridge washing out.” By the time her father returned with the food, the water was rushing dangerously near the house. He set his groceries on a chair, hurried the family out of the house, and then dashed back in, but by then his packages were already afloat. Moments later “our house moved across the road and so did the garage.”
Harry Cutting and his wife and three children lived down the street from Ruby. The water rose so quickly that Cutting and his family were trapped on the second story. In desperation, he lashed some doors together into a makeshift raft and tried to float the family to safety. “When it got in front of the Catholic Church, it bucked a tree, and his whole family went, but him. He got in a tree and his whole family drowned.”
John May and his wife and three children were in their Bolton home when it got picked up by the floodwaters in the middle of the night. Their neighbor, Will Agan, startled by the noise of the structure bumping along in the river, looked out to see John May standing in a window of the second floor with a lantern. Over the roar of the waters he heard May call out “Where are we?” Agan answered, “You’re at Will Agan’s.” May shouted back, “Well, we’re gone. Goodbye” as his house careened down the raging river carrying him and his family to their deaths.
The Lieutenant Governor of the state, Hollister Jackson, was driving near his home in Barre when his car hit a deep hole in the street which had been concealed by the rising waters of Potash Brook. Dazed by his sudden stop, and with his hat and glasses knocked off, Jackson began walking back towards his house, but by then the water was rushing so fast that it cut a channel right across Nelson Street. His neighbors called out and tried to save him, but he was knocked down and then swept away by the torrent. The next day his body was recovered about a mile away.
Henry Royce was 8 years old when the flood filled the Little River valley just north of Waterbury. He remembers people running to escape the river. He also remembers seeing a small pig swimming for dear life. Somehow, he and his sister rescued the animal. “I loved that pig,” he recalled. “I never could bring myself to eat it.”