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Finally a Thaw, Now the Floods

Newbury, Vt., School Dries Out While Others Wait and Worry

  • David Longmoore, head custodian of Newbury Elementary School, attempts to push a wooden stake into the frozen ground by a newly-dug trench outside Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vt., on March 31, 2014. The trench was dug yesterday to redirect floodwater that was seeping into the school, damaging two classrooms. Longmoore, who spent all of Sunday working with firefighters to avert flooding was working to block off the trench with stakes and caution tape. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    David Longmoore, head custodian of Newbury Elementary School, attempts to push a wooden stake into the frozen ground by a newly-dug trench outside Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vt., on March 31, 2014. The trench was dug yesterday to redirect floodwater that was seeping into the school, damaging two classrooms. Longmoore, who spent all of Sunday working with firefighters to avert flooding was working to block off the trench with stakes and caution tape. (
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • A tractor sits in the middle of the flooded front yard of In Season shop in Bradford, Vt., on March 31, 2014. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    A tractor sits in the middle of the flooded front yard of In Season shop in Bradford, Vt., on March 31, 2014. (
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • David Longmoore, head custodian of Newbury Elementary School, attempts to push a wooden stake into the frozen ground by a newly-dug trench outside Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, Vt., on March 31, 2014. The trench was dug yesterday to redirect floodwater that was seeping into the school, damaging two classrooms. Longmoore, who spent all of Sunday working with firefighters to avert flooding was working to block off the trench with stakes and caution tape. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • A tractor sits in the middle of the flooded front yard of In Season shop in Bradford, Vt., on March 31, 2014. (<br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Newbury, Vt. — Four or five inches of water entered Neil White’s fourth-grade classroom through its ground level windows early Sunday morning.

As he sorted through the wreckage amidst blowing fans on Monday, he tried to be optimistic.

“No student work was ruined,” he said.

On the other hand, White was struggling with the loss of books and entire units of lesson plans.

The flooding stemmed from a clogged, frozen or broken culvert, which carries water from the southwest corner of the school beneath the village green and Route 5, eventually emptying into low-lying fields along the Connecticut River, said Newbury Village Fire Chief John Renfrew.

On Saturday evening, the town’s fire department wrapped up a day-long controlled burn at 5 p.m., thinking they had had a long day, Renfrew said.

They then responded to a 6 p.m. call from Newbury Elementary School Principal Chance Lindsley to pump water from a drainage inlet in the school’s southwest corner. They spent 21/2 hours there before getting the situation under control.

They retired for the evening, but not for a full night’s rest.

At 3:30 a.m., a 911 call from Newbury Elementary School custodian David Longmoore brought them back to pump four inches of water out of the school’s basement. The West Newbury Fire Department also responded to the call.

“We were overwhelmed with too much water too quickly,” said Longmoore.

Firefighters brought in an excavator to dig a shallow trench above a drainage pipe along the school’s southern side, giving water a “natural place to run,” Renfrew said.

“Firemen are heroes, they really are,” said Lindsley.

He credited their efforts with enabling the school to open as usual on Monday.

“I guess we paid our dues to the town this weekend,” Renfrew said from home on Monday.

The school will need to replace waterlogged books in White’s classroom and a second-grade classroom across the hall, as well as floorboards and Sheetrock, said Longmoore.

He anticipated cleanup crews from ARC Mechanical Contractors and G.W. Savage Corp. would continue work for at least another week.

While the repairs are ongoing, Lindsley said the school would be creative with space and find a way to “make lemonade out of lemons.”

For example, the second-grade class was outside on Monday identifying trees and learning about maple sugaring in collaboration with River Bend Career & Technical Center.

Just south of Newbury, two properties along Lower Plain in Bradford, Vt., took on water from the weekend’s thaw and rain: Valley Cooperative Preschool and In Season Consignment.

About 10 inches of water stood like a moat surrounding the preschool, while the driveway to the neighboring store was still passable by car.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said the store’s owner Erin Perry.

No one from the preschool returned a phone call seeking comment. In a Facebook post, the school instructed parents to dress their children in boots and to use the rear entrance through the playground until the water dissipates.

Elsewhere, a frozen culvert near Peg Elmer’s South Royalton home created a pond she estimated to be five or six feet deep.

It was a “little alarming,” she said Monday.

A road crew from the Vermont Agency of Transportation was able to loosen the ice in the culvert and lower the pond before any damage was done, she said.

Elmer, whose home sits along the White River, watched river ice recede.

“It did what it’s supposed to do,” she said. “It broke up.”

Woodstock Town Manager Phil Swanson reported no flooding “yet” in his town, but he fretted that warming temperatures and the size of the snow pack meant the spring thaw is “going to be bad.”

There is generally risk of flooding throughout the region because of the quantity of snow still on the ground, said Jessica Neiles, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington.

“We still have a lot of snow and a lot of ice for going into April,” she said.

Daytime temperatures are expected to remain in at least the 40s throughout the week, Neiles said, the forecast for the region is dry until the weekend, when the region could expect a mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet.

She predicted rain for Saturday, but said it was too far out to say how much to expect.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CORRECTIONS

Peg Elmer liveson Route 14 in South Royalton, and a Vermont Agency of Transportation crew worked to clear a clogged culvert near her house. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the crew and her hometown.