Flood Precautions Go Untested

  • Todd Stanley, left, and Ben Griggs of Notts Excavating remove sandbags in front of Five Guys and other businesses in West Lebanon, N.H., after spending long hours Tuesday filling and stacking the bags in anticipation of the Connecticut River flooding on April 16, 2014.  <br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

    Todd Stanley, left, and Ben Griggs of Notts Excavating remove sandbags in front of Five Guys and other businesses in West Lebanon, N.H., after spending long hours Tuesday filling and stacking the bags in anticipation of the Connecticut River flooding on April 16, 2014.
    (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Flooding of the First Branch of the White River in Tunbridge, Vt., flooded sections of Route 110 Tuesday night, and flooded fields, such as this field seen from Town Farm Road on April 16, 2014. <br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

    Flooding of the First Branch of the White River in Tunbridge, Vt., flooded sections of Route 110 Tuesday night, and flooded fields, such as this field seen from Town Farm Road on April 16, 2014.
    (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Todd Stanley, left, and Ben Griggs of Notts Excavating remove sandbags in front of Five Guys and other businesses in West Lebanon, N.H., after spending long hours Tuesday filling and stacking the bags in anticipation of the Connecticut River flooding on April 16, 2014.  <br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)
  • Flooding of the First Branch of the White River in Tunbridge, Vt., flooded sections of Route 110 Tuesday night, and flooded fields, such as this field seen from Town Farm Road on April 16, 2014. <br/>(Valley News- Sarah Priestap)

West Lebanon — Basements were pumped, roads were narrowed and farmlands were submerged, but for the most part, the Upper Valley was spared major damage Tuesday night as heavy rain and snow melt raised rivers less than forecast.

“Nothing like Irene,” said Derek Dubuque, who works at Stateline Sports in West Lebanon. “Thankfully.”

According to the National Weather Service, the Connecticut River crested in West Lebanon at 21.17 feet around 2 a.m. but had dropped below 20 feet by 2 p.m., keeping it above the 18-foot flood stage but well below the forecast of nearly 25 feet.

It was also moving fast: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, water flow in West Lebanon peaked around 60,000 cubic feet per second early Wednesday morning, well above the median of less than 20,000 cubic feet per second.

On Route 12A, employees at big box stores and small storefronts alike reported no damage Wednesday morning. Outside the shopping plaza that houses Sears, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s — which all closed hours early in anticipation of the storm — workers from two landscaping companies removed hundreds of sandbags that had lined the buildings’ perimeters and doorways.

Paul Farnsworth, of L.L. Potwin Service, said workers had been out until 3:30 a.m. laying the sandbags, and returned around 9 a.m. to pick them back up. Employees at Sears, who were placing washing machines on rental trucks Tuesday night to get them out of the store, were seen off-loading lawn mowers back into the store Wednesday morning.

Dan Morin, a contractor for Supercuts in the next plaza over, summed up a sentiment shared by several people Wednesday: Mother Nature likes to play tricks, and if they hadn’t spent hours preparing for a flood Tuesday night, it would have happened.

“Hopefully, we won’t be back up here,” Morin said, as he packed up his pickup truck, including an unused sump pump.

Indeed, serious cautions linger: The National Weather Service extended its flood warning for the Connecticut River through 9 p.m. Saturday night, and the Connecticut River is expected to rise again early this morning to 20.7 feet, which is still about 2 feet above flood stage but well below the peak of 29 feet during Tropical Storm Irene flooding in 2011.

A flood warning means flooding is already taking place or is imminent, while a flood watch means conditions are right for flooding and encourages people to “watch out” for what the weather could do.

The entire state of Vermont remained under a flood watch Wednesday night, as emergency officials encouraged residents to monitor rivers and streams and get to high ground if water approaches.

“Never walk through floodwaters and never drive across a flooded road as currents can be strong and roads could be washed out under the water,” officials cautioned in a news release.

The White River crept close to the parking lot of the Main Street Museum in White River Junction, and rivers and ponds in the Mascoma valley and Claremont area were brimming.

Scores of farmers and residents around Tunbridge, Chelsea, Randolph and Newbury woke up to submerged fields Wednesday morning. Orange cones remained on Route 14 in South Randolph, reducing a stretch of that road to one lane as water reached up to the double yellow line on the northbound side.

Parts of Route 110 in Tunbridge and Chelsea were closed briefly, according to state emergency officials, but otherwise, Kuban the night went smoothly.

Several other Upper Valley road closings from Tuesday night — including parts of Route 110 in Tunbridge and Chelsea and Brook Road in Corinth — were lifted Wednesday, according to officials.

Throughout the state, Vermont officials tallied at least 10 state road closings and more than 30 municipal road closings Wednesday night.

Linda Kuban, who oversees First Branch Emergency & Rescue for Chelsea and Tunbridge, said there was “a lot of basement pumping” and checking in on places like nursing homes and senior housing.

Overall, the night went smoothly.

“I think it came quicker and got over with quicker than what I expected,” Kuban said. “I think everything was done up around 9, 10 o’clock.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.

CORRECTION

During heavy rains overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, the flow of the Connecticut River in West Lebanon peaked at 60,000 cubic feet per second, well above the median of less than 20,000 cubic feet per second. An earlier version of this article misstated the rates.