April weather can certainly be damp and cool across southwestern Connecticut, but what happened eight years ago today was unforgettable and record-setting. We were deluged with rain Sunday, April 23, 2006, and it caused flooded basements, closed roads, forced evacuations, and claimed two lives locally. In fact, nearly a half-foot of rain fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, making it the highest single-day rainfall total on record.
Unfortunately, the rain continued to hammer southwestern Connecticut all day long, while the Sun was shining at Yankee Stadium during the baseball game between New York and Baltimore in the Bronx. That was probably the most frustrating aspect, just waiting for the rain to stop. The rain was moving from South-to-North instead of West-to-East.
There's no question the 6.39" of rain which fell in Fairfield eight years ago today is the most ever in one-day in my lifetime. I can't ever recall that much rain in a 24-hour period. The previous October was record-setting due to the foot-and-a-half of rain which fell during the month, but it was spread out over a prolonged period of time. This time, nearly two months worth of rain fell in 24 hours.
Firefighters evacuated more than 30 people, including infants, with an inflatable boat as more than five feet of water flooded streets between Halley Avenue and Mountain Grove Cemetery in Fairfield that day. Fire Chief Richard Felner, a good friend of mine, said that nobody was injured in the worst flooding to hit Fairfield in at least a decade.
Around town, most of the people with whom I spoke had their own tales to tell. Most of the people who live along the Rooster River said it was the worst flooding in their neighborhood in more than 25 years. According to The Connecticut Post, Toni Bodor of Fairfield said what many of us felt. "It just kept going. Before we knew it, it was right to the top of the wheels of my car. It happened so suddenly. I kept checking out one window, the front and back, before I realized I couldn't move my car."
The magnitude of the flooding in Fairfield hit me with news of the death of a town resident. According to our morning newscast, seventy-one year old Elsbeth Schubiger lived with her husband on Bradford Street, just feet from the Rooster River. Investigators found her body lodged between a tree and a retaining wall the following morning.
Police say Schubiger was cleaning up debris along the swollen river when she apparently slipped, lost her balance, and fell into the fast-moving waters. Her death is a tragic reminder of nature's wrath, even in one's own backyard.
As for neighboring Bridgeport, the city established a single-day record of 5.3" which caused 13 people to be evacuated from an apartment building where up to four-feet of water built up in front of the three-story structure. Firefighters were able to remove six residents by boat, while the seven remaining residents were escorted to safety 45 minutes later.
Westport received nearly a half-foot of rain (5.37"), and the heavy rains contributed to the death of a Shelton child early Sunday morning. The youngster, who celebrated her first birthday the previous Tuesday, died when the car in which she was riding, slid out of control on the Merritt Parkway in Westport.
Rainfall totals from across southwestern Connecticut were impressive, to say the least. Other communities with at least four inches of rain included Milford (5.46"), New Canaan (5.17"), Norwalk (4.87"), Woodbridge (4.79"), and Southport (4.31"). Consider that the normal rainfall for the entire month of April is 3.99" based on 40 years of averages.