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Rebuilt bridge in Orange reopens weeks after flash floods washed it away

  • Aaron Allen, of Orange, N.H., drives across a new, soon-to-be open bridge on Cardigan Mountain Road that replaced one washed out last month by the Orange Brook , in Orange, N.H. on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019. Allen, who lives near the site said he had to spend $3,000 to repair his driveway after it was washed out by the same storm. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photograph

  • Rob Burnhoe, of Plymouth, N.H., returns to the parking area at Cardigan Mountain State Park after hiking to the summit in Orange, N.H. on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019. Washed out roads had made the parking area and trailhead inaccessible. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photo

  • Chris Moen, left, and Andy Hall of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation survey a destroyed bridge over the Orange Brook in Orange, N.H., on July 12, 2019. Heavy rains on Thursday night resulted in flooding, detaching a nearby porch from a home and clogged the culvert under the bridge. Moen and Hall work in the DOT's bridge maintenance department. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photo — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/3/2019 10:32:34 PM
Modified: 8/3/2019 10:32:32 PM

Residents gathered around the bridge Saturday, admiring its shiny new guardrail and rebuilt riverbank as it was taking traffic just a few weeks after record rainfall and flash floods reduced it to a yawning gap of rubble and flood debris.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation had reopened the bridge that carried Cardigan Mountain Road over Orange Brook in Orange, restoring a direct route to Canaan and providing access to Cardigan Mountain State Park for the first time since the July 11 storms.

It was a welcome sight for those who lived nearby.

Now, “we like to just drive back and forth across it,” joked resident Judith Lindahl. Buying groceries or mailing a letter had required a more-than-30-minute detour for the last three weeks, she said.

At the top of the road, over 30 cars filled the parking lot at Cardigan Mountain State Park. Many visitors said they hadn’t known of the flooding — or of the status of the roads.

“We figured we could get up here some way,” said Sandy Muther, who had traveled from Quechee.

In fact, more than 20% of the town’s roads were washed out in the cloudburst that dropped nearly 7 inches of rain on Orange in less than three hours. The water cascaded down Tug Mountain to the north and Cardigan Mountain to the east, washing out bridges and gouging 5-foot trenches in the town’s roads. The storm also caused flooding in nearby Plymouth, Groton, Hebron and Rumney.

The National Weather Service verified that the rainfall in such a short time span marked a record amount. But no one lost power and no one reported injuries, according to town Selectboard Chairwoman Dorothy Heinrichs.

But while no one was hurt, the storm still caused plenty of headaches, especially for those who count on the bridge, some of whom recounted their tales of the disaster at the bridge on Saturday.

Aaron Allen was happy to drive his pickup across the completed bridge. The closed roads had increased his commute from his home on New Colony Road to Canaan fourfold — from eight minutes to 31, he said. He also estimated that the damage to his driveway would cost $3,000.

Lindahl described a 500-gallon propane tank that had been washed 2 miles downstream and had yet to be recovered.

Tug Mountain Road folks had no vehicular access for four days, Heinrichs said.

Road agent Scott Sanborn had hardly slept, according to Heinrichs. And, she added, the work is far from finished.

The storm would cost Orange about $900,000 in repairs, at least initially, Heinrichs said; the annual town budget for road maintenance is $100,000.

Town officials submitted paperwork to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ask for help covering most of the expense, according to Heinrichs, but that request may not be approved for months.

The state had footed the bill for an additional $600,000 to rebuild Cardigan Mountain Road, a state road, said Richard Arcand, a program special for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Those repairs were about $100,000 more than initial estimates.

On Monday morning, the department is set to dispatch five crews to replace 20 culverts along the road, according to Arcand.

The roads would be open to local traffic only, and delays would be significant between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., he advised. He urged residents to seek alternative routes. Arcand said the Department hoped to finish replacing the culverts by Friday, Aug. 9, and then pave the roads the following week, “weather permitting,” he said in an interview.

But first, they’d take a moment to celebrate.

Local legislators and state officials plan to join Orange residents at 9:30 Monday morning for a ribbon-cutting to formally celebrate the opening of the bridge.

The workers will be on hand as well “to accept thanks — and because they’re not done yet,” Heinrichs said. Indeed, they’d be back on the job soon after.

Katie Jickling can be reached at

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