Flooding closes roads in southern Grafton County towns


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-12-2019 5:31 PM

ORANGE — Road crews in Orange and Canaan scrambled to repair washed-out roads and bridges on Friday after more than 4 inches of rain — and over 6 inches in at least one count — fell across southeastern Grafton County the night before.

Flash flooding on Thursday night knocked out bridges in Orange and Canaan, including a span on Cardigan Mountain Road, leaving some homeowners stranded and damaging the speedway in Canaan.

Officials in both towns said the financial impact of damage to roads appears worse than what the two Mascoma Valley towns suffered during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011; both towns are likely to seek federal help.

“It was a bad storm, no question about it,” Canaan Town Administrator Mike Samson said, noting initial damage estimates to Canaan roads could reach $250,000. “This is worse than Irene.”

And in Orange, Selectboard Chairwoman Dorothy Heinrichs said a “very preliminary estimate” puts damage to Orange-maintained roads at “either side of half a million dollars,” and does not include extensive work the New Hampshire Department of Transportation was undertaking to restore Cardigan Mountain Road. That will include attempting to rebuild a bridge on the road along the Basin section of Orange Brook that washed out.

“The bridge is gone. It is breathtaking,” Heinrichs said. “There is about an 80-foot gap.”

The road is the main access route to Cardigan Mountain State Park.

Road crews made temporary repairs throughout the two towns, so many roads were becoming passable, but some remained out. In Orange, that includes Tug Mountain Road and the section of Cardigan Mountain Road where the bridge was washed away.

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In Canaan, Samson said Jerusalem Road was probably hit hardest but is now passable. But a bridge on Transfer Station Road, serving both the wastewater plant and the transfer station, is badly damaged. And Samson said the speedway, which sits near the confluence of Orange Brook and the Indian River and is now known as the Canaan Motor Club, was damaged by floodwaters and downed trees.

Gov. Chris Sununu flew to the speedway by helicopter Friday afternoon with New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jennifer Harper to inspect the damage and thank first responders.

The rain, which also caused flooding in Plymouth, Hebron, Groton and Rumney, came as a warm front with “a very high moisture content” moved slowly through the area. with “training echoes” following initial torrents, according to Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

“One would move through and another would move through again, like a train,” he said.

Over the course of three to four hours Thursday evening, Hawley said, weathers spotters counted 4.7 inches of rain in Plymouth, 3.97 inches in Campton, and as much as 6.69 inches in southeastern Grafton County.

Heinrichs said the health officer in Orange, Doug Weeks, measured 6.83 inches of rain at his home.

“I was watching the water rise in my basement and the laundry baskets float,” Heinrichs said.

Because of the road damage, the Canaan Transfer Station, which Orange residents also use, is closed until at least Tuesday, and residents on the east side of Orange, who normally rely on Canaan for emergency services, will be served temporarily by Grafton.

The Mascoma Area Senior Center on Route 4 in downtown Canaan was closed Friday, and an art opening was postponed.

“Some of our staff couldn’t get in,” said Kathleen Vasconcelos, executive director of Grafton County Senior Citizens Council, which oversees eight senior centers in Grafton County. Mascoma was the only one impacted by the flooding.

The Canaan building and property itself were not damaged. Vasconcelos said she expected the center will reopen on Monday.

“Our Meals on Wheels recipients are provided with an extra frozen meal to have on hand for emergency situations in which the senior center is closed and meals are not delivered,” Vasconcelos said in a follow-up email. “As that was the case today, the recipients utilized their emergency meals, which will be replenished when the senior center re-opens next week.”

Listen Community Services said the flooding forced the cancellation of Monday’s weekly community dinner at the Canaan Assembly of God Church, though the nonprofit will hold one as normal in White River Junction.

Heinrichs, the Orange Selectboard chair, said she was impressed by the DOT’s response and by how residents immediately pitched in to help others.

“Everyone that has a truck or a backhoe is helping their neighbors clear their driveways,” she said. “It’s heartening.”

Elizabeth Sauchelli contributed to this report. John Gregg can be reached a jgregg@vnews.com.