Lebanon, Hartford Clean Up From Another Round of Storms

Peter Lynds, right, and Allen Brown of the Vermont Agency of Transportation shovel mud left covering a lane of Route 5 South in White River Junction Thursday, August 29, 2013 after a bank above the road collapsed in the runoff from a downpour the previous night. 
Valley News - James M. Patterson

Peter Lynds, right, and Allen Brown of the Vermont Agency of Transportation shovel mud left covering a lane of Route 5 South in White River Junction Thursday, August 29, 2013 after a bank above the road collapsed in the runoff from a downpour the previous night. Valley News - James M. Patterson jpatterson@vnews.com photo@vnews.com

West Lebanon — State and Upper Valley officials began the all-too-familiar task of clearing debris from streets and surveying damage Thursday after an intense storm Wednesday night dumped nearly three inches of rain on the city in less than an hour.

The storm, which passed through the heart of the Upper Valley around 9 p.m., washed out pavement and deposited trees and other debris on roads and driveways. Some areas hit hard by Wednesday night’s flash flooding, such as Dulac Street near downtown Lebanon, were still recovering from similar storms in early July that also damaged roads and other infrastructure. And in White River Junction at the Listen Thrift Store at the junction of routes 4 and 5, flooding left three inches of water in the basement and a coating of water on the first floor.

While there was little lasting damage from Wednesday’s flood in terms of road closings, the cleanup will cost Lebanon and Hartford thousands of dollars and was a sharp reminder of Tropical Storm Irene, which swept through the area with deadly force two years ago this week.

“I am sure somebody said, ‘Oh my god, here it comes again, right on schedule,’ ” Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said. “It’s a little uncanny.”

Some in Lebanon did not need a reminder of Mother Nature’s destructive powers. The city was slammed with a one-two punch of storms on July 1 and 2.

Albert Craig, who was evacuated with his family from Tannery Lane in July, said he and his wife turned to each other last night at the crest of the downpour and said, “Oh no, not again.”

“This is the third time,” Craig said, referring to back-to-back days of flooding in July as well as Wednesday. “Do you know how tired we are? Really, really tired.”

His son Albert Craig Jr. said that the water on his parents’ street was more than two-feet deep and expressed frustration about a storm drain at the edge of the nearby Rivermere affordable housing complex, which was heavily damaged during the July floods. The storm drain has been plugged since.

John Roe, the Twin Pines Housing Trust project manager for Rivermere, was surveying the damage with Craig earlier in the afternoon. He said the apartments were spared on Wednesday.

“All of our emergency barriers behind the building worked flawlessly,” Roe said.

Roe acknowledged, however, that the drain on the Rivermere property near the Craigs’ house has been problematic. He said fixing it was a “top priority” and that it should be unclogged by the end of September. The hold up, he said, is that the development group is waiting on a state permit to begin work.

That was little comfort for Craig Jr., who said that his family is being forced into a “holding pattern,” waiting on the city and the housing trust to improve drainage before tackling the damage to their own property.

“It’s not worth getting an estimate because why would you get an estimate if it’s going to continue to flood?” Craig Jr. said Thursday, adding that his parents are in their 60s and his mom had a recent hip replacement. “ ... How are they supposed to clean all of this out? That’s not fair.”

Terry Root, who lives on nearby Dulac Street and had his driveway washed out last month, said that the flooding Wednesday night was similar to July’s, which damaged several houses on the road.

“The water comes from Slayton Hill,” he said, pointing to various points where the water now routinely swamps Dulac Street. “You’ve got three ways that thing is draining.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Libbey said officials from the state Fire Marshall’s Office were inspecting the blaze that damaged the house at 14 Mack Ave. on Wednesday night. The property was valued at about $192,500 and owned by Trey Schaft, according to city records. Libbey said the house is likely a total loss.

Neighbors said they reported the fire following a lightning strike Wednesday, but Libbey said state officials are investigating reports of a suspicious individual who was reported on the property earlier in the day. The house is for sale and is believed to have been unoccupied at the time of the fire.

“We’ve had several reports from the residents of the area that had come over and stated (that a suspicious individual was there earlier in the day),” Libbey said. “And that’s why it has taken a bit longer (to determine the cause of the fire), because we’re just following up on some of those things.”

Libbey said the cause of the fire should be known in the next few days as police and state fire officials continue the investigation. He said the flames were contained mostly to the basement and the first floor had collapsed during the fire.

Also in West Lebanon, the Powerhouse Plaza took on water, leading to some flooding in the kitchen area of the Board and Basket cooking supply store. Linda Muhlbauer, the bookkeeper there, said that the store had minor carpet damage and minimal damage to outer cartons of products.

On the other side of the Connecticut River, Wednesday’s storm overwhelmed culverts and drains in White River Junction, causing temporary road closures.

Listen’s Executive Director Merilynn Bourne said the thrift store, which sits at the junction of routes 4 and 5, experienced $6,000 to $7,000 worth of damage Wednesday. Listen’s recently opened community center on Bridge Street was not damaged.

Everything aside, Bourne said “it could have been worse.

“I am feeling very lucky that the bank behind the store didn’t let go,” she said.

That bank did give way a few hundred feet east of the Listen building, below Fairview Terrace, which sits directly above and runs parallel to Route 5 has it winds through White River Junction. One northbound lane on Route 5 was closed for much of the day on Thursday,

The Listen parking lot was littered with chunks of broken pavement and tree fragments. Bourne said a third of the parking lot will have to be torn up and repaved.

In addition to water damage in the building’s basement and first floor, Bourne said the store has lost merchandise and will lose business “because cars won’t want to drive in with it looking like this.”

Volunteers and employees were seen clearing debris and furniture away from the building Thursday.

Kelly Linton, with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, was one of two workers clearing debris away from the culvert that sits a few hundred feet from the Listen building, and directly behind the nearby Antique Center.

Linton said trash and natural debris was swept down stream and clogged the culvert. That paired with the heavy rainfall made for a bad combination, he said.

“Right now we are trying to open up the mouth of this culvert,” Linton said Thursday morning.

Hartford Public Works Director Richard Menge said White River Junction experienced the most damage out of the five Hartford villages.

“It (the storm) was fairly minor from our prospective,” he said. “It’s obviously very significant to the effected properties,” he added.

Other communities experienced damage from Wednesday’s storm. A lightening bolt struck a tree near the Goshen-Lempster School, compromising the electrical system and cancelling the first day of classes.

The strike knocked out the schools fire alarm system, caused over 400 gallons of propane to leak and shorted out the phone and Internet connections at the school, according to Principal Ralph Peterson. Classes are now scheduled to start Tuesday.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.