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Windsor Flood Damage Pegged at $1M

  • Chelsea Bevis of Windsor talks with her father David Hood, inside vehicle, while watching a pool of water and debris backed up behind a culvert under Hebert Road in Windsor Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The four foot culvert pipe became clogged during rains Tuesday forcing Kimball Brook over the road which is a private drive maintained by Hood. After calls to his insurance company Hood learned that damage from running water is not covered.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Chelsea Bevis of Windsor talks with her father David Hood, inside vehicle, while watching a pool of water and debris backed up behind a culvert under Hebert Road in Windsor Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The four foot culvert pipe became clogged during rains Tuesday forcing Kimball Brook over the road which is a private drive maintained by Hood. After calls to his insurance company Hood learned that damage from running water is not covered.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Jeff George, Jeff Keyser, Simon Walker and Brad Willey install a new culvert on Hunt Road in Windsor Wednesday July 3, 2013 after heavy rains washed out several areas on the road Tuesday.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    From left, Jeff George, Jeff Keyser, Simon Walker and Brad Willey install a new culvert on Hunt Road in Windsor Wednesday July 3, 2013 after heavy rains washed out several areas on the road Tuesday.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chelsea Bevis of Windsor talks with her father David Hood, inside vehicle, while watching a pool of water and debris backed up behind a culvert under Hebert Road in Windsor Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The four foot culvert pipe became clogged during rains Tuesday forcing Kimball Brook over the road which is a private drive maintained by Hood. After calls to his insurance company Hood learned that damage from running water is not covered.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • From left, Jeff George, Jeff Keyser, Simon Walker and Brad Willey install a new culvert on Hunt Road in Windsor Wednesday July 3, 2013 after heavy rains washed out several areas on the road Tuesday.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

Windsor — Town officials estimate that Windsor sustained more than $1 million of damage after a flash flood pounded smaller brooks and hillside roads for almost three hours Tuesday night, washing away dirt and gravel and eroding street-side driveways.

Town Manager Tom Marsh said the heavy downpour began around 8:30 p.m. and persisted until 11, gushing onto streets and obstructing visibility for drivers.

At 9:45 p.m., Marsh warned residents to stay indoors if possible.

“Please do not travel if not absolutely necessary,” he wrote on the town website. “Updates will be provided as they become available here, on the Windsor Facebook page and through enews updates.”

Fire Chief Mark Kirko said several roads were closed throughout the night, including Hunt Road, Estey Lane, Weeden Hill Road and Route 44, which “was covered with six inches of water because of a busted culvert.”

As of yesterday, several of those roads remained in bad condition: Hunt Road was closed throughout the day and probably won’t be repaired until over the weekend or early next week, Marsh said; County Road lost a lane of traffic and is undergoing engineering assessment; Weeden Hill Road was torn-up and “difficult for smaller vehicles to cross,” Kirko added.

Cole Hill Road and Estey Lane sustained less severe damage and stayed open to area traffic, Marsh said, and residents still had access to Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center.

Marsh estimates that there’s more than $1 million in damage. He said the town is lucky, considering how devastating the flood was in areas like Lebanon and the Rivermere apartments.

“There’s no denying how bad this storm was,” he said.

Ascutney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Darrin Spaulding said Tuesday’s flash flood was one of the worst storms to hit the Upper Valley since Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

The first call to start checking on residents came in at 7 p.m., Spaudling said, and from there, the storm escalated.

“The torrential downpour was just crazy,” Spaulding said yesterday. “I haven’t seen anything like this in a while.”

Spaulding said loose tree branches and brush and stone tumbled down driveways and into the rushing water. Four fire trucks patrolled the area — but their search was cut short as the weather grew worse along Route 131.

“There was at least a foot of water on the road,” Spaulding said.

Spaulding said his department shut down Route 131 from the Ascutney exit off Interstate 91 to Downer’s Corner in West Weathersfield, a roughly 10-mile stretch, until 10:45 p.m. “We didn’t want cars to get swept away by the water,” he said.

But Lori and Ron LaPlante didn’t have to drive anywhere to have their things washed away.

Lori and Ron LaPlante, who live off Jarvis Road in West Weathersfield, were separated from the road Tuesday night when a 6-foot diameter, 16-foot long culvert under their driveway broke loose and was swept a quarter mile down Mill Brook.

“There was just too much water,” Lori LaPlante said. “Too much and too fast. We could have three culverts that size and it wouldn’t have been able to hold that water.”

The LaPlantes have lived in their home for more than 20 years, Lori said. The gravel driveway, about 50 yards long, connects the house and Jarvis Road. Mill Brook usually runs as a trickle at the base. The couple said the culvert also washed away during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Repairs cost between $9,000 and $10,000, Ron LaPlante said. The culvert was fixed with two feet of packed-in dirt and gravel on either side.

But it was a futile defense during Tuesday’s flash flood. Around 7:30, the situation started to unravel.

Lori LaPlante said her husband told her to move her red minivan across the brook. Rain was falling too hard. The brook was rising.

In an effort to save the culvert, Ron LaPlante hauled 40 sandbags in his pickup to the bottom of the hill. Together, the couple stacked them on top of the culvert, anything to give it more weight.

But at 9:16, the LaPlante’s watched the culvert tip skyward and splash into the brook.

“Like the Titanic,” Lori LaPlante recalled. “If it wasn’t our culvert, it would have been fascinating.”

For the rest of the evening, they were trapped on their side of the brook.

Where the culvert once sat, yesterday there was a nearly 20-foot ditch between the driveway and Jarvis Road. Stones were scattered. Grasses were flattened. Long gullies appeared in the driveway from the flood.

At first light, the LaPlantes crawled across the divide on a red ladder as water rushed beneath them. When they got past the water, they used a second ladder to climb out.

With a neighbor’s tractor, the LaPlantes recovered the culvert and dragged it home. Despite the water’s force, damage was minimal and the LaPlantes hope put it back.

“This is the worst storm ever,” Ron LaPlante said, watching the brook rush through the chasm.

“It’s all right,” his wife said. “We’re going to have a big old party. It’ll be B.Y.O.S. Bring your own shovel.”

Off Hell Hollow Road in Plainfield, the damage was widespread and destructive.

Large ditches swallowed gravel on either side of the road, exposing rusty culverts in the soil. Branches and stones and piles of mud blocked the path. A 5-foot deep fissure separated the base of Hell Hollow from Westgate Road.

Alice and Bill Tibbits, who live at 61 Hell Hollow Road, had their mailbox ripped away during the flood.

Alice Tibbits said she and her busband, both retired, were watching “Big Brother” on TV as it stormed. But it sounded “like there was too much rain,” her husband said, so he went outside to look.

What he saw amazed him: Water rushing down Hell Hollow Road. Water from his neighbor’s yard washing away the bottom of their driveway. Water seeping down a dirt bank behind their home.

“It was water everywhere,” Alice Tibbits said.

At the end of the storm, an almost 10-foot gap separated their home from the road. The Tibbits could walk around the ditch, but they couldn’t drive a car.

They were stranded, and as of yesterday afternoon, no town officials or firemen had checked on them.

“It’ll probably be OK,” Alice Tibbits said. “We’ve had neighbors who’ve said they’ll come and pick us up if we need to go somewhere.”

But Alice Tibbits, 58, is on the lookout for her health. She recently underwent stomach surgery, she said, and suffers from diabetes.

“So far, I haven’t had to take insulin,” she said. She bent over and softly rapped on her front door step. “Knock on wood.”

Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211 or zpeterson@vnews.com.

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