Return to Rivermere Up in Air
Extent of Damage From Flooding Unknown
Tina Giguere quickly packs up all of her belongings at the Rivermere Housing Complex in Lebanon, N.H., after her apartment was severely damaged by floodwaters and mud, forcing her and others to find other arrangements after just moving into the housing complex three weeks ago. Giguere's unit was one of the most severely damaged, and she and volunteers completely moved all her belongings out of the apartment in less than an hour.
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COVER Volunteer Dave Sherman of West Lebanon kicks away mud at Tina Giguere's unit at the Rivermere Housing Complex in Lebanon, N.H., to gain access to a closet while he and other volunteers moved Giguere out of the flood-damaged apartment on July 3, 2013.
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Lebanon — As a volunteer’s four-wheel drive truck navigated over the rocks and mud yesterday afternoon toward the flood-damaged duplex of Lisa and Russell Macedo at Rivermere, there was little the couple knew for certain.
Did the barricade of bunched-up towels that Russell Macedo, a former Marine, jammed around their glass back door keep the water from flooding their kitchen? Had the food in the recently stocked pantry been soaked? Would the TV and stereo, the only electronics the Macedos didn’t have time to carry upstairs before they were evacuated Monday night, still be in working condition?
As the Rivermere-bound truck crawled along Dulac Road through a tunneled-out pile of mud and rock that reached the vehicle’s roof, uncertainty loomed.
But one fact was clear: they had just 10 minutes to grab what they could and get out.
Their return date, unknown.
Unit four in the low-income Rivermere complex had been home to the Macedos for only two weeks when torrential downpours Monday and Tuesday caused a nearby brook to overflow, flooding their backyard and seeping into the first floor of their two-story apartment.
They had moved into the two-bedroom duplex June 13 and attended last week’s official Rivermere ribbon-cutting ceremony, organized by the complex’s non-profit developer, Twin Pines Housing Trust. By then, tenants for 17 of the 21 units had moved in.
“We were so happy to get in,” Russell Macedo said. “It was the best home we ever had.”
Yesterday, they moved back out — at least temporarily.
Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter said seven of the 17 occupied units in two buildings were evacuated Monday night, the rest a day later. Before the rain started falling again Tuesday, Twin Pines called in ServPro Franchise Professionals, a fire and water damage restoration service in Lebanon, to begin drying out the water-logged apartments. Heavy machinery was brought in to divert the rushing water away from the complex and back toward its natural path.
But the skies opened up again Tuesday afternoon, dumping torrential rains on the already saturated grounds surrounding Rivermere. As the waters rose and the mud moved, the remaining 10 units were evacuated around 5 p.m.
As of last night, Twin Pines was paying to house all but three or four of its 42 displaced tenants at the Baymont Inn and other nearby hotels.
“We are fortunate due to the generosity of our supporters and donors to have some finanacial capacity to help in the short term with these issues,” Winter said. “We’re going to have to turn to those same donors and see if they can support us in finding housing for these tenants and repairing the damage done at Rivermere.”
Residents are waiting to hear when — or if — they will be able to return home, but Winter said he won’t be able to give them an answer until tomorrow at the earliest when he meets with the Lebanon fire chief, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Twin Pine’s insurance adjuster. Although only seven of the units were damaged — three of them severely, with two feet of mud coating the floor — the questionable safety of the complex’s foundation is what’s keeping the other 10 units empty.
“We have no assurance until the road above us is rebuilt that it won’t happen again,” Winter said. “Obviously we want to make sure that we aren’t going to have further water run off the hill or erosion or a landslide in the area that would jeopardize people and their safety.”
Electricity was restored to the area yesterday, Winter said, which means Twin Pines won’t need to haul in generators to aid their clean-up efforts in the days or weeks to come.
Some of the units, like the Macedos’, had minor water damage to the flooring and the baseboards. But others — the ones with severe damage — will need dry wall and new bathrooms and new kitchen appliances. The housing project cost upward of $5 million to construct, and yesterday Winter said damage estimates are climbing beyond a half million dollars.
Twin Pine’s insurance will cover damage to the building, but it’s up to the tenants to purchase their own renter’s insurance.
The Macedos just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
“We didn’t have any property insurance because we didn’t have the money yet,” Lisa Macedo said. “We had to take all the money just to move in here.”
Volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles were called upon yesterday to drive the displaced through the damaged roads to retrieve their belongings.
Retired Dartmouth College professor Hoyt Anderson drove the Macedos, offering to haul whatever they could fit into the bed of his truck.
In the 10 minutes the Macedos were given inside their damp home yesterday, they collected food — pudding cups, Frosted Flakes and a case of Propel water — as well as clothes, family photographs, medicine and household bills.
Russell Macedo recovered his black and white Schwinn Riverside bicycle — a prized possession he’d had since he was 15-years-old. But Lisa estimated that the couple lost at least $200 worth of groceries from the refrigerator and freezer while the power was out.
“We’re grateful that they let us go back today,” she said. “We can’t wait for them to get it fixed so we can get back home.”
Katie Mettler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3234.