Crews Get to Work Repairing Damaged Culvert in Plainfield
Department of Transportation workers replace a culvert along Route 12A in Plainfield Thursday, following heavy rains that damaged the road bed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Kyle Welch from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation helps to manuever a culvert into place along Rt. 12A in Plainfield Thursday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
New Hampshire Departmant of Transportation supervisor Reagan Clarke looks over the culvert that his crew from Sunapee is installing on Route 12A in Plainfield on Thursday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Plainfield — Work crews continued to clean up the mess left in the wake of last week’s heavy rains on Thursday, more than a week after consecutive micro-bursts shellacked the Upper Valley’s roads.
A segment of Route 12A in Plainfield was closed as workers from the state Department of Transportation repaired a sunken bank and a busted culvert. Last week’s flash flooding snapped one part of a three-piece culvert that empties into the Connecticut River, said DOT worker David Tyler, and washed away stones, guard rails and piles of gravel.
“It was scary,” Tyler said. “I was directing traffic on the road that night and saw the bank drop off.”
The crew has been repairing sections of Route 12A since last week, Tyler said. Thursday’s work concentrated on a 300-foot stretch of land that collapsed into the river and had to be reduced to one lane of traffic with an emergency traffic signal.
After two days of flash flooding, there was only wet dirt left. Telephone poles bent into trees and the old culvert, which was 3-feet in diameter, was overwhelmed and exposed.
“It was like pouring 5 gallons of water into a 1-gallon milk jug,” Tyler said. “It was bad. I’ve never seen so much water.”
The crew installed a new 5-foot culvert, stacked the barren bank with new stones, straightened the telephone poles and fished the old culvert out of the water.
In terms of town-maintained roads, Plainfield saw considerably less damage than nearby communities, with the estimated cost to repair the entire road network between $87,000 and $100,000, according to Town Administrator Steve Halleran, who credited Plainfield’s municipal gravel pit as a wallet-saving resource.
“Without it, we’d be bankrupt,” he said, adding that the town still has to pay for its gravel, but officials don’t have to pay cash for every load of material they use. “ ... We have a cost, but we don’t have to write anybody a check at the end of the month.”
The town was also helped out by recent repairs done to Willow Brook Road, which had its drainage system upgraded to two concrete culverts, paid for by federal hazard mitigation dollars last year, Halleran said.
“Brook Road would be closed today but for those two pipes,” he said.
In neighboring Cornish, the estimated repair costs ranged from $250,000 to $300,000, according to Selectboard Chairwoman Merilynn Bourne, who added that the impact to private property was “minor” and most of the damage occurred on public roads.
Hell Hollow Road remained closed on Thursday, and Bourne said that it could be months until it is reopened, given that the road is scarcely populated.
“It’s really kind of a shortcut,” Bourne said. “There are no houses on that road.”
Bourne said the town’s work crews are instead focusing on roads like Paget Road, which she said would require $100,000 in gravel alone to repair.
“We want to take care of the roads that people live on, and Paget Road is a road that supports a number of households and sustained worse damage,” she said.
Bourne was taken aback by the damage, and said that she has seen logs that “literally flooded out of the woods into stream beds and jammed into some of the culverts.
“On Hell Hollow, you can see a long log and trunk laying in the middle of the road, and water brought it out into that position,” said Bourne. “That’s quite a feat.”
The Cornish-Windsor bridge was closed for a period of time on Wednesday due to downed power lines.
Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said that the downpours on Wednesday did not set back any of the repairs taking place in town, other than temporarily disrupting workers’ ability to do the work. He said the most significant projects in town were Juniper Hill Road and County Road, which was still closed to traffic Thursday.
Marsh said that those two projects could cost up to $300,000 each and that the town expects to receive federal raid to help pay for the repairs. He added that most of the other damage in town was less severe, such as washed-out road shoulders and ditches.
“The only other road that people need to be mindful of when they’re traveling is Hunt Road,” Marsh said. “There is lots of construction and it’s heavily traveled.”
In Plainfield, Halleran said the flooding has broken people out into two camps: those who think the weather event was a once-in-a-lifetime “perfect storm” event caused by saturated earth and a lingering low-pressure system, and those who are worried that last week was a sign of the “new normal.
“If this is the new normal, then our entire road system isn’t built for this,” Halleran said. “Do we have to redesign all of our drainage to handle loads of water that we never thought were possible?”
For his part, Halleran thought the answer was somewhere in the middle.
“We’d like to think it’s the first one,” he said. “But we’re a little concerned that it may not be.”
Ben Conarck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3213. Zack Peterson can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3211.