The July 4th, 1969 flood
Moro Plantation, Maine
On the night of Friday, July 4th, 1969 I was playing in a band at a local tavern in Cleveland, Ohio. Before cell phones and the internet accurate news didn’t travel like it does today. Unaware at the time of the extent of the disaster I remember getting a phone call from someone the next morning that the Vermilion River valley had flash flooded (extremely unusual for the summer) where my parents had been staying in their riverside cottage. I drove out there in my new 1969 red Chevelle convertible to find them. I got to the top of the hill on Vermilion Rd. and looked down into the valley and saw that only the top two or three feet of the peak of the roof of their Riverside Dr. cottage was visible above the flood waters. A lot of cars were parked along the road with people looking down at the fast moving floodwaters. Someone there told me that all the people that had been down in the valley had been taken to a shelter in Vermilion. So I drove across the Liberty Ave. bridge and into town. I arrived at the shelter. The Red Cross was there but not my parents. After another phone call I learned that they actually had been taken to a friend’s home in Lorain. Trying to drive back out of town I found that the Liberty Ave. bridge had now been closed to all traffic. I was on the wrong side of the river and need to get back so I started driving south to find a way to cross back over the river valley. I got as far south as the Gore-Orphange Rd. bridge and decided to cross there. The raging floodwaters were going over the roadway and the deck of the bridge. I had no idea how deep that water was but being a “brave” 19 year old guy I took my car and sent it right across the valley. Only by the grace of God did my Chevelle and I make it to the other side. My adrenaline was pumping and I was greeted in Lorain by a policeman who pulled me over for going 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. I told him I was trying to find my parents but that didn’t matter to him and he wrote me a ticket anyway. I did find them safe and sound at their friend’s home. Their car along with many others in the valley had all been submerged.
My parent’s cottage was spared unlike many others that floated off their foundations – one was even blocking the roadway. Afterwards we had to shovel river mud out of the front door of the cottage. Everything inside the cottage was trashed including my grandparents’ antique player piano that had made it all the way from Montana but didn’t make it through the Vermilion flood. There was a small hole in one of the kitchen windows and the front half of a fish was looking into the kitchen and the rear end was still outside the window. We needed a little humor at that time.
Later on I drove back to the spot where I had driven through the floodwaters only to find that the road was completely washed away. I knew I would have been the last car ever at that time to drive on that road.