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White River Valley residents dry out as crews shore up roads damaged by flooding

  • A car waits to pass through the one lane on Camp Brook Road while repairs continue after flooding the previous day in Bethel, Vt., on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Heavy rainfall and excessive snowmelt caused the Camp Brook to rise over the road. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Janeen Jarvis-Lunna waits with her truck after it got stuck on Campbell Road in Bethel, Vt., while she was trying to get to her home in Stockbridge on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. "We'll be okay. I'm an optimist," said Jarvis-Lunna. The road was impassable after damage from flooding the previous day. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Camp Brook Road is damaged in multiple locations after flooding the previous day in Bethel, Vt., on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The road was open to local traffic only while repair crews worked. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

BETHEL — Residents of the White River Valley continued efforts on Tuesday to recover from flooding that damaged area roads and washed away small bridges and culverts earlier this week.

Dump trucks and backhoes dotted several roads in Bethel, where fast-moving water early Monday took out large chunks of gravel and pavement.

Six roads in town remained closed on Tuesday morning, according to Town Manager Greg Maggard, who said he hoped the majority would be in working order by week’s end.

Fire and public works crews worked in tandem to ensure all residents could get out of their driveways, Maggard said, adding that no one was left stranded for long and no injuries or power outages were reported.

“We’re focusing on those areas where it’s most difficult for first responders to get there,” Maggard said. “We’re working as hard as we can.”

A “significant” snowmelt in Vermont’s higher elevations coupled with rainfall of up to 1¼ inches led to Monday’s flooding, according to the Vermont Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, which was activated to help communities’ recovery efforts.

Major infrastructure damage was reported in 10 towns — including Bethel, Royalton and Rochester — while 43 others saw minor damage, according to the EOC’s situation report published Monday night.

Businesses in Pomfret, Tunbridge, South Royalton, Stockbridge and Rochester also reported flooding damage to the state, and about 20 people were evacuated from homes in Stockbridge, Ludlow and Rutland, the report said.

But the heart of Monday’s flood damage seems to be situated in both Bethel and Stockbridge, Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma said on Tuesday afternoon.

Along nearby Camp Brook Road in Bethel, local traffic navigated a single narrow lane past construction crews attempting to shore up the roadway. Farther down the road, homeowners were filling in the ends of driveways with gravel.

Mark Dimarzio had just finished shoring up his driveway on Tuesday morning. While he hadn’t yet seen the rest of his street, he said the flooding appeared to be less destructive than August 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene hammered Bethel and other towns throughout the Upper Valley.

“I moved up here a couple of months before (that storm) but I wasn’t actually here for it. I was away on vacation and our friends told us not to come back because we couldn’t,” he said. “So, the flooding is not that bad here. But I think for some places it probably is.”

Another resident, who was cleaning around his home where Gilead Brook Road meets Byam Road, said the flooding started around 3:30 a.m. Monday and quickly surrounded his family’s home, an elevated ranch.

“I literally had to run in and start grabbing people out of bed because I’ve seen it happen before. We had less than four minutes before a four-wheel drive truck couldn’t get through,” he said. “We barely made it out, to be honest with you,” said the man, who said his first name was Jason but declined to give a last name.

The water moved so quickly that it pushed a truck left in the driveway and washed away several tools Jason was still searching for on Tuesday afternoon.

Elsewhere on Gilead Brook Road, residents Lloyd and Joanne Best watched with a friend as a backhoe attempted to repair the brook’s bank, which had shifted and damaged a nearby bridge.

“It’s not nearly as bad as 2011, but this is like the fourth flooding that we’ve had on this road since we moved here. We’ve lived here since 1984,” Lloyd Best said.

The small bridge on the driveway leading to their home was unscathed during Monday’s flood. The couple wasn’t so lucky after Irene, when they had to pay $60,000 in repairs after water took the bridge away.

“It’s sort of this situation where you’ve got these high hills and a narrow valley, and everything just funnels in here and goes on down through,” Lloyd Best said.

Neighboring Royalton also continued repairs to its town roads on Tuesday, according to South Royalton Emergency Coordinator Gidget Lyman, who counted two towns roads still closed.

South Royalton had been nearly cut off on Monday, as both ends of Route 14 were closed after the White River crested its banks.

Geo Honigford, the owner of Hurricane Flats Farm, said about a third of his land on South Windsor Street was inundated on Monday, but by Tuesday the waters had receded and left only mud.

“This is not an atypical event,” said Honigford, adding that flooding events should be expected every five years. “I think people are scared because they remember Irene.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.