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"What's past is prologue" when it comes to Connecticut River flooding, expert warns

"A crowd gathers on a corner in Athol to assess damage from the floodwaters on Canal Street." From Joshua Shanley's new book, "The Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936."
Joshua Shanley
Flood Views of Franklin County
"A crowd gathers on a corner in Athol to assess damage from the floodwaters on Canal Street. From Flood Views of Franklin County." From Joshua Shanley's new book, "The Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936."

The history of flooding along the 400-mile Connecticut River runs deep, and disaster management expert Josh Shanley says one flood should be instructive.

In his new book, Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936, Shanley examines that devastating event, and warns that “past is prologue," calling for "a coordinated effort by many agencies on all fronts" to prepare for future flooding.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there are 284 high-hazard dams in Connecticut, and 21 miles of levees that protect $3.4 billion in property. Much of this infrastructure was installed nearly 90 years ago in the wake of the 1936 flood, Shanley explains, and "needs to be maintained, and in many cases upgraded."

Shanley is "concerned," noting that these systems were built to withstand "certain climate patterns, certain precipitation patterns." He says "the big question is whether they... even on a good day would have survived the different changing precipitation patterns and in-between droughts that we're anticipating."

Plus, we hear about the nature-based flood resiliency plans being discussed in the coastal City of Groton. Economic Development Specialist Cierra Patrick gives an update on the city's Community Resilience Plan. For some low-lying neighborhoods, sea level rise and coastal flooding could be existential threats.


  • Joshua Shanley: Author, Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936; Retired Firefighter-Paramedic in Emergency Management; Blogger, NewEnglandFloods.org
  • Cierra Patrick: Economic Development Specialist, City of Groton

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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.
Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.