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FEMA to Inspect Lebanon Flood Damage Today

Slayton Hill Road residents Kathy Pierce, right, Hector Miranda, left, and their great grandnephew Domanic LaCasse, 13, middle, survey the flood damage at their home in Lebanon Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Slayton Hill Road residents Kathy Pierce, right, Hector Miranda, left, and their great grandnephew Domanic LaCasse, 13, middle, survey the flood damage at their home in Lebanon Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

Lebanon — With just one lane of traffic open yesterday, it was mostly quiet on Slayton Hill Road, aside from a slow but steady trickle of water that could be heard flowing down a roadside gully that had been carved out during last week’s flash flood.

The road’s pavement, which broke up in the flood, was mostly gone and in its place lay a blanket of dirt. Construction crews were continuing to assess the damage in advance of an expected visit from state officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency today. City officials have not calculated the cost of repairs of the damage since the storm hit last Monday night and Tuesday evening, but indicated that more information on those figures will be available by week’s end. Cleanup continued throughout the day on Forest Avenue and Shaw Street, according to Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos. A service center will be set up at Lebanon High School tomorrow from noon to 8 p.m. where several Upper Valley organizations such as Upper Valley Strong, The Haven and Twin Pines Housing Trust will available to assist to the public.

According to the city’s website, more than 40 roads reported as damaged in the storm were still being repaired yesterday. The most common damage involved culverts and shoulder erosion, as well as general cleanup.

City Manager Greg Lewis said yesterday that Lebanon was still in “response mode,” nearly a week after the storm first hit, as crews attempt to get a better assessment of the damage around the city.

“The fire is under control, but parts of the house are still smoldering,” he said.

Doug Morse, who has lived on Slayton Hill Road for nearly 30 years, was checking in on a neighbor down the hill from him yesterday morning. Morse said he suffered only minor basement flooding in the storm, and was able to pump out the floodwater once electricity was restored to his house Wednesday night.

Like other residents of the road, Morse questioned whether proper drainage was installed when the road was rebuilt about a decade ago, pointing to a cheesecloth-like fabric that could be seen sticking out of a drainage ditch. Morse said that the apparent preventive measure had done little to control the flooding.

As for whether the city should consider more heavy-duty drainage infrastructure for the problematic road, Morse replied, “I think they’ve got to do something a little bit better than what they did last time.”

Public Works Director Mike Lavalla said yesterday that his department is likely to examine installing an upgraded drainage system when the road is rebuilt.

“At a minimum, it’s restoration,” Lavalla said. “But given what we’ve had for events there, we’re going to be looking at storm drainage for the future.”

Lavalla said that the cost of completely rebuilding a road — ripping up old pavement, restructuring the foundation, and adding new pavement — is “easily $1 million per mile,” but that doesn’t include major drainage systems and other utilities such as water lines.

Jim Van Dongen, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said that damage assessment teams would be touring the state today split into three teams for each of the affected counties: Cheshire, Sullivan, and Grafton. Van Dongen said that the teams will be made up of at least one FEMA representative as well as state officials, and estimated that the Grafton County assessment team will arrive around 10 a.m. in Lebanon.

“They will go around starting most likely with the biggest areas of damage, and they’ll try and get a handle on how much it will cost to repair that,” Van Dongen said. “What they are trying to do is reach the damage threshold.”

According to Van Dongen, the threshold for statewide damage to public infrastructure that would trigger federal aid is about $1.8 million, but there are also county thresholds, with Grafton County’s total at around $307,500. Van Dongen said that “the fact of the matter is that these numbers are fairly low.

“I really don’t think we’re going to have any difficulty meeting these thresholds,” Van Dongen said. “But the fact is you can’t guess; you have to send people out to look, and that’s what they’ll be doing tomorrow.”

Van Dongen said that, if the thresholds are met, FEMA would then chip in to the tune of 75 percent of damage costs for public property such as roads and other infrastructure. For private property damage, however, he said the reimbursement threshold “is a little squishier.”

“The rule of thumb is if you’ve got 100 homes destroyed in a county, you’re probably going to get (individual assistance),” said Van Dongen, who added that Lebanon, while experiencing major damages to private property, did not see that level of destruction.

“I would say the chances of getting individual assistance are not good,” he said. “Whereas I think the chance of getting (public assistance) is virtually assured.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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