City Sees Fire and Floods
Storm Wallops Lebanon, Hartford
Paul Ames, center, a call firefighter with the Lebanon Fire Department, takes a break at the scene of a house fire on Mack Road in West Lebanon on August 28, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
Members of the Damren family, center, hand out water to firefighters at the scene of a house fire on Mack Avenue in West Lebanon on August 28, 2013. the Damrens live three doors down from the site. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
Lebanon — The city was again inundated with storm water Wednesday night, after a violent downpour led to flash flooding, street closures and a house fire on the two-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene.
The flooding, which also flooded roads in White River Junction and forced authorities to block a section of Route 5, came nearly two months after a similar cloudburst storm wreaked havoc on the city’s infrastructure.
The storm cell that passed over last night dropped more than two inches of rain in about an hour.
A two-story residence on Mack Avenue that appeared to be unoccupied and had a for-sale sign in the front yard caught fire during the peak of the storm shortly after 9 p.m. following a lightning strike, according to neighbors’ accounts.
Mark Emerson, who lives across the street from the house that caught fire, said that the storm produced several lightning strikes shortly before he and his family smelled smoke.
“That storm rolled through,we must have been right in the middle of it and it was pretty harsh all around,” Emerson said. “It was like three or four strikes that hit real close. We were sitting here watching TV and my daughter said she smelt something burning, so we opened up the front door and all you could see was smoke.”
Emerson said at first all he could see in the house across the street was billowing smoke, but shortly after he noticed flames that were contained inside the house.
Brian Sagrades, who also lives across the street from the house that caught fire, shared a similar account.
“There were a couple (lightning strikes) that sounded real close with the thunderclap right with the light, so we knew something was getting hit close,” Sagrades said. “Then it was a little while later that we started smelling the smoke, so we started running through the house to see if it was us.”
By the time Sagrades looked out the front door, he said, the entire street was shrouded in smoke.
Fire crews wielding chain saws and long axes appeared to have most of the fire contained by 10 p.m., after breaking apart windows to let the smoke billow out of the still smoldering structure.
Firefighters knelt in front of the burning residence on Mack Avenue with steam coming off their foreheads, dipping their helmets into the cool, several-foot-wide puddles on the side the road to cool off.
The storm system appeared to linger over the Connecticut River valley linking Lebanon and Hartford.
Within the first several minutes of the downpour, the storm had washed one to two feet of water over parts of the Route 12A strip. An immobilized station wagon had to be towed from the intersection of Route 12A and Interchange Drive.
Across the river, two cars were stuck on the Vermont side of the Bridge Street bridge in more than two feet of water, according to Hartford police. Route 5 also had to be closed for a period of time due to flooding near the intersection of Route 4 in Hartford.
Emergency responders in Lebanon on Wednesday night said that the flash flooding centered on Route 12A, which was also closed near Romano Circle for a brief window of time.
The flash flooding comes less than two months after cloudburst storms on July 1 and 2 wiped out Slayton Hill Road and forced evacuations of the Rivermere affordable housing complex and other residences on Tannery Lane.
Ben Conarck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213