Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

Norm Clift and Fire Chief Houston relate their Long Branch rescue attempts

Norm Clift relayed his story of being stranded in the flood in a large dump truck to Betty Kennedy:

"If I remember right, there were 10 or 12 of us—three in the cab and the balance, in the box. We then started down the road and our first stop was at a cottage-style home whose older residents (the Thorpe's) refused to be evacuated on the grounds of having gone through floods before and going to ride this one out also. But as they had a young baby, they asked us to see that it (I think it was a girl) could be cared for, and had a small valise with bottles full of formula packed. Two of the firemen waded through chest-high water to get the baby and the case, and brought them back to the truck."

Fire Chief Houston, who was also in the truck with Clift, describes the flood:

"The water kept rising and to the point of stalling the motor; we finally cut the fan belt off. That worked for a short while and we managed to drive further down the road where we rescued two people from marooned cars. Then the motor stalled and the current bumped us still further down the road and we finally came to rest next to a big oak tree. There was also a house some 25 feet from us and car on its front lawn. Next door was a cement-block house, with an exceptionally high basement and a good solid roof. But as we were marooned on this truck, with some five and a half to six feet of water all around us, we were literally at the mercy of the river. Finally, somebody with a cedar-strip boat came by and took some four firemen and the two rescued persons from the car and the young Thorpe baby to the roof of the cement-block house."

"There we conversed, in shouting voices, telling how much of the parked car was visible. It seems we first noticed the door handles disappear, then it was halfway up the windows, then to the roof, and I imagine it was around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when there was only a spot of the roof showing. Then the spot began to get bigger and we knew the crest had been reached.

"During our stay in the truck, and as the depth of the water got worse, we could see big mobile trailers from the trailer grounds north of the bridge on Lakeshore Road bouncing down the river, and hear dishes, cups, pots, pans bouncing off shelves. We could also hear people screaming for help, but we were helpless to do a thing. At one point, there were flashes up the river as hydro lines snapped and fell into the water.

"The damage and sight of what the hurricane did was ghastly. Homes were knocked off their foundations, cars were flooded and filled with silt, roots and debris was all around. And the home of the people—all three or four—where we rescued the baby, was completely gone. Only the solid concrete steps remained," said Clift.

Hurricane Hazel, Betty Kennedy, 1979; p. 93 and 94

[Back to Your Stories main page]