Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence, Mass. Flood of 1936

Lawrence Public Library

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The snowfall of 1935-1936 was extremely heavy. The drifts were still intact in March due to a protracted period of cold weather. An early spring thaw and heavy rains filled Lake Winnepesaukee to dangerous levels and the spill-off began to flood the Merrimack, Spicket, and Shawsheen Rivers. On March 12, 1936, the headlines of local papers changed from news of Europe to the rising waters of New England Rivers. By the 13th, operations were suspended at the Wood Mill in Lawrence; other mills followed suit. More heavy rain on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, made the Merrimack rise five feet in 24 hours. On March 20, the Merrimack reached flood stage. A record of 46.85 feet was recorded at the Lawrence Dam. By March 21, the water level had risen to 48 feet.

The flood of 1936 ravaged much of a 13-state area of the northeast. Damages mounted to $300,000,000. 400,000 were homeless and 178 deaths were reported. The National Guard was called to active duty; many thousands were without heat and water. Pneumonia had already become a problem, but there was a growing fear of typhoid and influenza.

By the end of March, the floodwaters began to recede. The beginning of April saw the evacuees returning home and the clean up began.
 

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