The Recorder – The book recalls the impact of the Connecticut River Valley flood of 1936
The Northampton Tri-County Fair has everything you could expect from an agricultural society in a quaint New England pocket. Recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture as the oldest continuously operating fair in the United States, it boasts 204 years of tradition that includes performances, demolition derbies, livestock demonstrations and, until 2005, thoroughbred races. But history, reliably, has its ups and downs.
Nestled among the plethora of dining options, the property’s exhibition hall is open to the public, but carries a discreet scar within it. A wooden marker shows the high water mark reached by the 1936 Flood on March 20, 1936, when a combination of heavy rains and sleet wreaked havoc in the central Atlantic and New Brunswick region. England, especially in the Connecticut River Valley.
This is the subject of Joshua Shanley’s book, “Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936”, which chronicles the damage left from St. Johnsbury, Vermnt, to the Park River in Hartford, Connecticut. The Massachusetts towns of Northfield, Athol, Orange, Erving, Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield and Sunderland are included, as are the Deerfield River, Northampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, Chicopee Falls, Springfield and West Springfield.
“I look forward to looking through the lens of history, if that makes sense,” Shanley said, adding that he had been researching his book for about two years. “Everything was done before COVID and it sat on the shelf for a good six months … while the publisher tried to figure out what to do.”
Arcadia Publishing and The History Press published the book in April.
“(The Flood of) ’36 was such a huge event… around New England and, really, up and down the East Coast,” Shanley said. “Just the reach of ’36 was just amazing.”
At least 100 people died as a result of the flooding and tens of thousands were left homeless, jobless and without electricity for weeks. Recovery efforts have been hampered by typhoid and other public health issues. Damage estimates topped $ 9 billion in 2021 dollars, and the disaster helped initiate President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1936 Flood Control Act.
Shanley, 54, has a considerable interest in emergency services, having worked in the field since 1989, during which time he had the opportunity to support several special operations teams as a tactical nurse and rescue technician. He served as a dog handler with the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force and was involved in the response to both the notorious World Trade Center attacks and the 1993 truck bomb attack that killed six people and in the terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001.
Shanley graduated with a Masters in Emergency Management in 2005 and eventually chaired various committees focused on public health, health care preparedness and emergency management. He ran a consulting firm for five years, working with hospitals across the United States on various scenarios including an influenza pandemic and full building evacuation planning. He obtained a Masters in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices in 2008 and has just completed a Masters in Education.
A native of New York and living in East Windsor, Connecticut, he has been a firefighter / paramedic with Northampton Fire Rescue since 2009 and a media project manager for the Massachusetts Fire Academy, where he creates online courses and takes photos and pictures. Massachusetts videos. State police demining team, hazardous materials response unit and technical rescue teams.
Shanley said Hurricane Henri was, for about 24 hours, on the same path as the 1936 flood. He said he wrote his book, in part, to make sure the lesson learned was not. not forgotten.
“I really feel like we’re at an interesting tipping point, and I don’t know which direction it’s going to go,” he said. “Very quickly, it snowballs. And it exactly takes a lot of time and a lot of money to recover.
Shanley said flooding often causes other disasters. In fact, according to the Northeast State Emergency Consortium, nearly nine of ten presidential disaster declarations include flooding as a component. And Shanley said those most affected and most often “left behind” are already disenfranchised people.
“The Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936 can be purchased online at bit.ly/2YAqfFg, amzn.to/2YI8nbm, or bit.ly/3oNtYKK.
Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.