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A hurricane shelter in 1955 to escape the wrath of Hurricane Connie.
(Photo by Charles Borjes, Courtesy of Norfolk Public Library)


Carrol Walker's Old Norfolk

Hurricane Connie Comes to Hampton Roads In 1955

By Peggy Haile McPhillips
Norfolk City Historian

The 1955 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest on record up to that time, with 10 named storms, four of which would be so severe that they would be retired.

One, Hurricane Connie, followed Tropical Storm Brenda by three days and was trailed four days later by Hurricane Diane. Between them, Connie and Diane caused signicant flooding that resulted in nearly $1 billion damage in 1955 dollars ($9,042,397,003.75 in 2017 dollars) and at least 232 fatalities. Collectively, the Ten 1955 storms would result in 1,518 deaths. Luckily, Hampton Roads was spared the worst of Connie's wrath.

Connie began in the eastern Atlantic on August 2, 1955 and struck Norfolk's Ocean View area ten days later. Norfolk was as prepared as possible under the circumstances. Calvin Dalby, Director of Public Works and Coordinator of Civil Defense, set up a Civil Defense command center at Norfolk's Center Theater building (now Harrison Opera House). He instructed all non-essential traffic to stay off city streets; directed employers to send their employees home early on August 11; and called on Police and Fire personnel and other municipal emergency crews to remain on stand-by.

Here, City officials are shown (see photo above) through the evacuation center in the Ocean View Elementary School by a Red Cross worker. Left to right - Calvin Dalby, Director of Public Works and Coordinator of Civil Defense; Francis J. Nicholson, Deputy Coordinator of Civil Defense; Sherwood Reeder, City Manager and Director of Civil Defense; and Red Cross volunteer worker Mrs. H. W. Rogers. The women seeking shelter at the center with their children are all Navy wives living near 14th Street in Ocean View.



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