Melting Ice Lifts River Waters
Warm Weather Brings Fear of Flooding
Chiram Oak Nelson of White River Junction looks over at the ice moving swiftly along the White River, in White River Junction yesterday Nelson said he had just been talking about the the river and possible flooding with a friend. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
A pine tree is surrounded by water due to flooding from a mix of snowmelt, rain, and Lake Pinneo flooding at the Lakeland Golf Course in Quechee. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Katrina Elliot, of Canaan, waits for the bus yesterday in Lebanon as the fur on her parka blows around due to strong winds. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — A combination of sub-zero temperatures last week followed by warm weather during the past two days has created ice jams on rivers throughout the Twin States, forcing the rivers to rise near flood stage yesterday.
Unseasonably warm temperatures combined with rain and melting snow caused rivers and streams to become clogged yesterday with ice chunks that collect around the bases of bridges, dams and other debris.
The creeping rise of the Sugar River’s water-line in Claremont prompted firefighters to suggest a voluntary evacuation to about six residences in the Beauregard Street area yesterday afternoon, a move that Capt. Bryan Burr called “precautionary.”
“We have been watching the river at that particular location since about noontime,” he said around 4 p.m. “So this has been a proactive approach from the fire department.”
Eric Pond, who lives off Beauregard Street near the river, said it is not unusual for the river to rise during extreme weather. He and his wife, Melissa, have lived on adjacent Maria Street for 27 years, and the water has submerged the area surrounding their house three or four times, they said. A cement bulkhead supporting a motel across the river is marked with painted lines, alerting neighbors to the river’s height; yesterday, it crested at the second line of four.
“We’ve been through this a thousand times before,” Pond said. “We’re not scared. I think people panic more than we do.”
Added Melissa Pond: “It’s no biggie.”
Claremont firefighter Chris Pixley, who was monitoring the river with a crew from the fire department yesterday afternoon, said that it’s not unusual to see ice jams in the Sugar River a few times each season — but it’s a little bit strange for it to be happening so early. Usually ice jams occur “more in spring time,” he said.
“It’s kind of a big event down here when it happens. The people who live down here know what to look for because it happens so often,” Pixley said.
As melting broke up ice jams, the river’s flow gained speed shortly after 4 p.m., Pixley said, and the water level dropped two feet in about a half-hour. However, he said he and his crew would continue to track the water line in case new ice jams forced the river’s water level to rise again.
Elsewhere yesterday afternoon, the National Weather Service had a flood warning in effect from Charlestown up the Connecticut River through Littleton, N.H. On the Vermont side, there was a flood advisory in Montpelier, St. Johnsbury and Newport. Wind advisories were in effect for the rest of the Twin States.
Behind the Main Street Museum in White River Junction, jagged pieces of ice floated in the White River toward the confluence with the Connecticut River. Large blocks of ice crashed into the pillars below Bridge Street and crumbled into pieces.
Burlington broke its record temperature on Wednesday at 57 degrees and Montpelier tied its record high temperature on the same day at 49 degrees.
In Lebanon, the high reached 58 degrees at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, but like the rest of the Twin States, the warm weather didn’t last long and temperatures started to plummet soon after. By 5 p.m. yesterday, the temperature was near freezing and expected to continue dropping.
Brooke Taber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, said that during the weekend, temperatures should peak at 20 and remain in the teens or below. The Upper Valley could see scattered snow showers, but nothing more than a few inches, Taber said.
New England was also buffeted by high winds that were pushed northeast by a strong storm that passed through the central plains and then headed toward the Great Lakes. Wind gusts as strong as 45 mph whipped through Lebanon. Springfield, Vt. saw winds as strong as 46 mph and Weathersfield saw 53 mph.
The high winds also caused power outages across the Twin States. Green Mountain Power reported thousands of power outages across Vermont, including 650 outages in West Winsdor, 268 in Sharon, 261 in Woodstock and 71 in Weathersfield.
Green Mountain Power Spokesman Jeremy Baker said all outages across the state were the result of high winds and trees being knocked onto power lines. Baker hoped that all power would be restored by early this morning, but he said if the wind picked up and caused additional outages, then that would delay when other customers would be back online.
The New Hampshire Electric Co-op and Public Service of New Hampshire also recorded thousands of power outages throughout the day.
In Hanover, the radio tower on Goshen Road in Bradford lost power at 8:40 a.m. The tower is used by emergency personnel to connect with Hanover dispatch center. When the power went out, the backup generator didn’t kick in, so that calls couldn’t be connected through the site.
Luckily, the dispatch center uses a multiple tower system so emergency personnel in Bradford could use a different radio channel and connect with towers at the Lyme fire station or on Hayes Hill in Hanover.
Doug Hackett, Hanover’s communications coordinator, said no calls were lost because of the power outage. Despite the heavy wind, Hackett said the department had only received four calls by noon about downed trees on power lines, which is much less damage than a typical wind storm.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3220.