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Videos: Heavy Rains Swamp Upper Valley, Damaging Roads and Cutting Power

  • Penny Sirjane, a volunteer with American Red Cross, of Thetford, listens for emergency radio updates on Saturday, July 1, 2017, at Thetford Elementary School. Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at the elementary school in response to heavy rain and flooding. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford selectman Stuart Rogers, left, receives pizza donations from Red Cross volunteers Anna Mary Zigmann, of South Royalton, and Linda Nordman, of White River Junction, on Saturday, July 1, 2017, at the Thetford Fire Station. Emergency volunteers gathered at the fire station to field inquiries in response to heavy rain and flooding in the Upper Valley. "Tonight will be a long night and tomorrow will be a long day," Rogers said. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Route 25A is seen partially collapsed in Orford, N.H., on July 1, 2017. (Christina Rheaume photograph)

  • School Street in Hartford, Vt., was damaged by heavy rains and flooding on Saturday, July 1, 2017. "It appeared to me that a culvert at the top of School Street was inundated," civil engineer Jonathan Rugg said. "Water could not get to the brook. So the opposite swale over topped and a deluge ran down the road." (Jonathan Rugg photograph)

  • School Street in Hartford, Vt., was damaged by heavy rains and flooding on Saturday, July 1, 2017. "It appeared to me that a culvert at the top of School Street was inundated," civil engineer Jonathan Rugg said. "Water could not get to the brook. So the opposite swale over topped and a deluge ran down the road." (Jonathan Rugg photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, July 02, 2017

A series of heavy rain cells rumbled across the region on Saturday, dumping inch after inch of water on already waterlogged ground, destroying roads, trapping residents in their homes, sending cars and trucks sliding off highways and knocking out power to hundreds.

No injuries were reported, but emergency personnel were still actively responding to calls for downed wires, debris on roadways and residents needing assistance late last night.

The flooding prompted officials to close roads and open emergency shelters throughout the Upper Valley, including at the elementary schools in Thetford and Lyme.

Some residents had to be evacuated in Norwich and Thetford, where the fire department ordered mandatory evacuations for Route 132 between Tucker Hill Road and the Strafford town line.

In Lebanon, officials closed Dartmouth College Highway between LaPlante Road and Moulton Avenue and warned residents to beware of standing water and rising rivers and streams. Repairs on the road, also known as Route 4, are scheduled to begin on Sunday.

In Hartford, part School Street succumbed to the deluge. In Tunbridge, flooding was seen along Route 110 and at the Fairgrounds.

A portion of Route 25A in Orford collapsed as it was undermined by rushing water, and Orford resident Dennis Stern said he was trapped in his Orfordville Road home by washed-out roadways.

“If we go north for about 200 yards, we come to a section of the road in Orford that’s completely washed out and impassable. If we go south for about 100 yards, same situation. And the fissures aren’t even passable on foot,” he said in an email.

Stern said Upper Stonehouse Mountain Road in Orford also was eroding fast. “Right now it’s perhaps passable for one vehicle, but that’s a risk.”

In White River Junction, resident Steve Thomas said he was blocked by water covering North Main Street as he tried to leave town.

After he took a detour via Sykes Mountain Avenue, he saw a “huge swath of dirty, heavily flowing water” pouring out of the woods near the Listen furniture store.

“There’s a river of water coming out of the woods and coming through the Listen Center parking lot and running down Route 5,” he said.

On Saturday evening, Thetford Selectboard member Stuart Rogers received pizza donations from the Red Cross at the Thetford Volunter Fire Department’s station, where volunteers had gathered to field calls about the rain and flooding. “Tonight will be a long night and tomorrow will be a long day,” Rogers said.

At about 5 p.m. Saturday, Green Mountain Power reported outages at 54 households in Hartford, 80 in Norwich, 140 in West Fairlee, 147 in Vershire and, among many other locations, a whopping 1,139 in Thetford. At the same time, 622 Eversource customers were without power in Lyme.

By 11 p.m. those numbers had dropped significantly, with just 33 customers still without power in Thetford, 23 in Norwich, 13 in Hartford and scattered outages in half a dozen other Upper Valley towns. Eversource reported a total of 14 outages in Claremont, Cornish and Orford.

Vehicles slid off the road on both interstates Saturday, including a tractor-trailer resting partly on the median off I-89 South between Quechee and Sharon and an SUV in the median on I-91 in Hartford on Saturday morning.

“What’s going on right now is called ‘training,’ ” Steve Maleski of the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vt., said in an interview Saturday afternoon.

“Think of a series of boxcars on a train. …You’ve got individual cells of heavy rain, convective cells lined up.”

When the north-south portion of the northeasterly wind is stronger than the east-west portion, cells line up and hit the same location, one after another, Maleski said.

“As a result you can lay down very heavy amounts of rain in a very short time,” he said.

National Weather Service observations at Lebanon Municipal Airport pegged Saturday morning’s rainfall at about an inch over the span of two hours.

Things had cleared up by 1:30 p.m., and the sun shone through the clouds. But a few hours later, another cell rolled through, dumping another third of an inch between 4 and 5 p.m. — and another inch in the hour after that.

Conditions were such that the National Weather Service even issued a tornado warning for parts of Grafton County on Saturday afternoon.

The Connecticut River in West Lebanon is predicted to reach minor flood stage at 8 a.m. Sunday. In Royalton on Saturday afternoon, the White River appeared close to that point already.

Sunday’s forecast promises some relief, with mostly sunny skies predicted and temperatures in the 80s.

Valley News staff writer Ernie Kohlsaat and photographer Jovelle Tamayo contributed to this report. Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.