A version of this story appears in my book Eastern Shore Road Trips #1: 27 One-Day Adventures on Delmarva. Info about the book is here.
The deluge lasted three long days and stretched across five high tides right at the time of the full moon. More than 90 percent of Chincoteague Island flooded. The water ran six feet deep at times on Main Street in downtown Chincoteague. The island’s chicken industry was destroyed–an estimated 350,000 birds died in the storm. Chincoteague’s famous ponies suffered horribly as well. By the time the rain stopped, more than 100 of them had died.
The culprit was the Ash Wednesday storm of March 6 to 8, 1962.
The most famous of those ponies, Misty of Chincoteague, managed to survive the storm. She was pregnant at the time, and living on the Beebe Farm in Chincoteague. Floodwaters did, in fact, reach her barn, but before that happened Ralph and Jeannette Beebe moved Misty into the kitchen of their home. She stayed there for three days. The aerial photo here shows how things looked at the Beebe Farm during the flooding.
Weather experts rank the Ash Wednesday storm among the Top 10 of the 20th century. Forty people died along the coast between North Carolina and New York. Another 1,000 were injured. The NASA facility on Wallop’s Island in Virginia suffered more than $1 million in damage. Here is the Wikipedia page on the storm.
Ocean City was hit hard, too. Waves rising to 25 feet ripped buildings right off the ground and into the sea. Some 350 properties were damaged, and 50 of those were completely leveled.
“This is the worst disaster in the history of Maryland in my time,” said Governor Millard Tawes. Here is a story and photo essay from the Maryland Historical Society about the damage in Ocean City.
Delaware, too, was devastated. Seven people lost their lives. Floodwaters reached inland to Milton and Milford at levels no living person had seen before. Some 2,000 homes were destroyed, including an astonishing 28 out of the 29 oceanfront homes in Bethany Beach. In an effort to discourage looting, the National Guard required official passes from everyone on the coast between Fenwick Island and Slaughter Beach. Here are some photos from the Delaware State Archives of damage in that state. The damage in that state has been estimated at more than half a billion dollars in today’s money.
Back in Chincoteague when the stormwaters finally subsided, Misty was transported up to a veterinary clinic in Pocomoke City where she gave birth to a foal. The Beebes naturally decided to christen that pony “Stormy.”
In the months after the storm, the Chincoteague Fire Company needed help in rebuilding its pony herd. Misty and Stormy pitched in–the Beebes took mother and daughter out on a fundraising tour to various schools and civic groups.
Misty’s adventures in the Ash Wednesday storm eventually became the subject of “Stormy, Misty’s Foal,” the fourth book in the Misty series by author Marguerite Henry.
Misty lived another 10 years, until 1972. Stormy died in 1993. Both mother and daughter were sent to a taxidermist after their deaths. They are on display side by side right inside the front door of the Museum of Chincoteague Island.
–Written by Jim Duffy for Whimbrel Creations LLC and Secrets of the Eastern Shore in 2015. Last updated on March 3, 2022.
NOTES: The historical photos here are on display at the Museum of Chincoteague.
So unbelievable, as are so many stories, but every word is true.
Chincoteague Virginia, and its people are the meaning of the word, Love.
So true, Claudia!
I remember this storm even though I was very young. My dad was Chief Deputy Sheriff of Accomack County. He was one of the first people to get to Chincoteague as soon as the causeway opened and I went with him. Will never forget it. At home the water was well up into our backyard and my dad took his boat and rescued two elderly sisters on the next road to ours (I refer to them as the Baldwin sisters). First thing the elder sister put in the boat was a bottle of whiskey.
Great story, Jim!
Thank you so much, Pam!
My Aunt Elmira Hal, Uncle Marion Hall & Grandmother Mannie Thornton lived on Deephole Road that was hit hard. They got off the island by helicopter. I remember my grandmother telling me about it. I had an Aunt & Uncle Johnny & Anna Northam that lived on Clarke Ave. They rode out the storm in their attic.
inter esting story. iv’e been there camping and it is beautiful,enjoyed the ponies t he most. let’s pray this never happens again
Been visiting the island about 5 years now. Met some awesome teaguers. Mr Mcgee has hooked us up w/o some of his decoys.
And lets not forget the wonderful Saltwater Cowboys of Chincoteague! Thank you Marguerite Henry for being one of the first influences that made me the horsetrainer/lover/rider that I am today. When you have horses in your life you never get old (nearing 60) and loving the horselife in all weather.
So very true, Lynn! ❤
Oops, I mean Lin!
I was a Senior in High School (Atlantic High) in Oak Hall @ that time. I had relatives living in Chincoteague who came & spent the night(s) with us. Guess I’ll never forget that storm. I love to read stories of the Island, I knew a lot of people who are gone now. Thanks for this article.
i remember that storm well. I was a junior in pocomoke high school. My great aunt, Mrs.Jennie Johnson lived in the brick building on the right of the theater as you come off the old Chincoteague bridge. It also housed the H and H pharmacy and Edwards 5 and 10 store. She owed the building at that time. The tide waters went half way up the stair well and her family could not get her to leave that island. That was the way a lot of the islanders thought.
I remember this storm very well. We were in Ocean City Md celebrating my fourth birthday with plans to spend the weekend with my grandmother. Her house sat facing the bay overlooking Ocean City. It sat and still does up on a small plan built up many years before for the nine hole golf course upon which she eventually built her home. Our cars normally were parked down by the marsh and road. I’m not sure why hers was left down in that location while several of the others were brought up onto higher ground. I remember sitting behind my grandmother’s chair looking out the east window as the storm rages. I watched the bay waters rise and come almost over the higher ground where the house sat. It was an amazing sight. It must have been for me to recall it at such a young age. The ground was soaked, the house may out fine, all of the family spent their time preparing and hunkering down but two cars were drowned in the storm surge that the bay experiences. When the storm subsided and the skies cleared my father and I went into town and saw the destruction and mayhem.
My family lived in Chincoteague at the time. My father worked at Wallops Island. My mother was pregnant with me and was flown to safety by helicopter. I was born weeks later. They lost so much as a result of the storm but the one thing my mom always regretted was the loss of my sister’s pony. The stories are ingrained in me as part of my history and I can tell the stories of me and Stormy to my children and grandchildren.
Wow, Debbie, thanks for sharing such a family memory!
I love to hear these stories even though they are heart-wrenching…thanks for sharing them! I feel like I must have lived there in another life……A bunch of .passwords in my life refer to Chincoteague and the streets and people…I AM CONNECTED for some reason. .Thank-you again! (see below)
We lived in Virginia Beach but my grandparents Lettuce and John Birch lived on the island. They lived just down the street from the Beebe ranch but fortunately their house sat high and had no damage. My grandfather died the year before the storm so my grandmother was alone, or so I thought. My Dad talked his way onto a helicopter and went to get my grandmother who refused to leave. Boy was he mad!! A few years ago I talked to my cousin who I did not realize was living on the island as her Dad, my uncle was stationed there in the Coast Guard. I remember the loss of all the chickens and some people buried there had their graves come up and float away. Now most of my relatives don’t bury there loved ones on the island but on the mainland.
I do remember this Storm very well! I was born and raised on Chincoteague! My Dad John Smith,worked for Burton’s Seafood,on East Side,he had just came home from work,when our neighbor,Mr.Niblett,came,and told him he had better move his car because the water was coming across the street( we lived down on South Main St.)my Dad told him thanks for letting him know,and out he went to move the car behind the house!! Our neighbor,and older,very sweet lady ,came,and asked if she could stay with us,and my parents,told,yes, you are more than welcome and we all can wait together,My brother Allen was just a year old,and I was 13! There next morning ,the water was coming under the back door and my dad,told jus,we were going have to get out!!! This was March!!My precious Mom,Marie Booth Smith ,said let me get in the water first so I can help,she did,first Ms.Marion,and oh! How cold ,both she and my Mom said how that water was,I was after her,and it almost took my breath,we all started for Mr. & Mrs.Niblett house in that freezing cold water!!! My dad was behind us with my brother in his arms,and as soon as he got passed the gas tank,it exploded! We got to the neighbors,and their steps were gone,and their houser was high! We all got pulled in,and we stayed with the sweet Niblett,until the water had gone down,and then we went to Wallops Navial Base,and everyone treated everyone off the Island,so very good!! It was terrible to go through,but Thank The Lord ,He took care of us!!
I was reading the post you made about the Ash Wednesday storm. I too lived next door to the Nibletts. Mrs Nibletts and my mom were great friends. We lived between mrs Nibblett and Elmer Lunn. Our last name was Terry. Did you know my family?
We own a wooden shingled waterman’s cottage on North Main. The cottage sits right at the little point where the channel meets the bay. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful and amazing sunsets from the rocking chair on the back porch and even pods of dolphins coming and going up and down the channel. Chincoteague Island is truly a unique place.
My maiden name is Daisy (Lorraine) and we lived a few houses from the Nibletts , the Lund’s and the Terry’s. played with the Terry kids so yes I remember you. During the storm we were pretty isolated as no one lived next to us except during the tourists season. My Mom and Dad and my 5 brothers and sisters saw the water coming in under the door and all eight of us and the family dog moved upstairs until a day or two later we were rescued by Chattie Clark. He and Mary took our entire family into their home! We were so afraid because at one point we heard what we believed was a horn??? Then we realized it was the house moving on its concrete block foundation! The spray from the flood waters was hitting the upstairs windows at one point. The storm hit on My brothers Birthday (another reason I will never forget it! We were eventually moved to the base for several days til the water receded and we were able to go back. The aftermath and cleaning up and typhoid shots were things which hope to never experience again! The Lord was definitely watching over our 8 person family in that small 4 or 5 room house !
I remember that storm so well. I was in high school at Bridgeville High, in Delaware. It was a scarey storm. I remember my dad taking us over to Rehoboth Beach to view the damage there. The Sands Hotel had one whole side ripped off and all the rooms could be viewed. So much damage everywhere.
Do any of you remember the Savage family? They had a daughter, Ann who would have been Round 12 at the time of the storm. She would have graduated from Chincoteague High School in 1968.
I was living in Chincoteague with my parents Estella and Wink Watson at the time of the storm with my 2 children (my husband was in Turkey) on S. Main St. The tide was rising fast. The water from Chincoteague Channel was lapping the picture window in the living room and water was coming in the kitchen door.at the back of the house My cousin, Bob Hill, came in his boat and took Mom, Dad, Linda Budd, Carey Watson, my 2 children and me up to his house and we stayed there until the water receded, roughly 3 days. Oh, I didn’t mention that we went over a 3 foot high fence in the boat. Water came in our house 14 inches and up to the dash of our cars parked on a hill.
I remember this well…going to Chincoteague high then. We lived right across Main and when I went to bed I told Dad the water was rising in the street. He must have thought I was dreaming and told me to go back to bed. When we woke up it was right up against our front steps. Boats were going by. We lived right next to the firehouse and our house was one of the few that didn’t get flooded. We took in lots of people who had no place to go. It was the old Josie Scorra house next to the hotel and firehouse. So much devastation. Unbelieveable. We stayed through the whole thing and helped feed the workers.
Went with my grandparents Davis to check on summer cottage on the beach? My grandfather had built a concrete wall around the front of the house to protect against the storms! The house and wall were intact, surrounding home were damaged! People had thought the wall would not work! As an Architect and Contractor he was right (as usual) !
I have loved the Misty story though never realized until now that the impetuous of story was the very storm that I had endured along with my family while in Ocean City MD for my birthday weekend. I recall well how the storm ravaged Ocean City and my grandmother’s property which was on the bay, facing the Route 50 bridge. The water rose a tremendous amount and flooded the vehicles closest to the water. Good article
Thank you so much, Nancy–I’m so glad you enjoyed the article!
My grandfather’s family are original settlers of the island. My great great grandmother was a midwife on the island. She was written up in National Geographic. My family names are The Colona’s and Daisey’s I can’t remember the rest.