Plainfield seeks FEMA assistance for flood-damaged road repairs

While waiting for water test results, Barbara Benson, of Tunbridge, washes and rinses dishes in water she first boiled on the stove at the North Tunbridge (Vt.) General Store on Wednesday, August 2, 2023. Town officials recommended on Tuesday that any wells on properties near the First Branch of the White River on Route 110 cease being used for drinking water until they are tested. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

While waiting for water test results, Barbara Benson, of Tunbridge, washes and rinses dishes in water she first boiled on the stove at the North Tunbridge (Vt.) General Store on Wednesday, August 2, 2023. Town officials recommended on Tuesday that any wells on properties near the First Branch of the White River on Route 110 cease being used for drinking water until they are tested. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

Ken LaRoche, of Raymond, N.H., site supervisor for Energy Efficient Investments, makes a phone call near a pallet of flood relief food boxes while working at the Tunbridge Central School in Tunbridge, Vt., on Wednesday, August 2, 2023. LaRoche said he is avoiding drinking water from the school building during the job. Town officials recommended on Tuesday that any wells on properties near the First Branch of the White River cease being used for drinking water until they are tested. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Ken LaRoche, of Raymond, N.H., site supervisor for Energy Efficient Investments, makes a phone call near a pallet of flood relief food boxes while working at the Tunbridge Central School in Tunbridge, Vt., on Wednesday, August 2, 2023. LaRoche said he is avoiding drinking water from the school building during the job. Town officials recommended on Tuesday that any wells on properties near the First Branch of the White River cease being used for drinking water until they are tested. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

John Basher, of Buffalo, N.Y., carries an umbrella while walking on the rain-soaked race track, Sunday, July 16, 2023, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in Loudon, N.H. Sunday's Crayon 301 NASCAR Cup Series race has been postponed until Monday, July 17, 2023, due to inclement weather, officials said Sunday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

John Basher, of Buffalo, N.Y., carries an umbrella while walking on the rain-soaked race track, Sunday, July 16, 2023, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in Loudon, N.H. Sunday's Crayon 301 NASCAR Cup Series race has been postponed until Monday, July 17, 2023, due to inclement weather, officials said Sunday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP file

By FRANCES MIZE

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 08-07-2023 11:57 AM

PLAINFIELD — Plainfield has received almost 18 inches of rain this summer, Town Administrator Stephen Halleran said.

“It all blends together,” Halleran said. “That’s a ton of rain, and a big chunk of it came in the month of June, several weekends in a row.”

The persistent downpours and a particularly heavy storm on July 22 — which dumped almost 3 inches of rain on Plainfield — led the Selectboard to authorize spending for an additional day of the highway department’s time, bumping its schedule up to five days a week. The July 22 storm inflicted significant damage to Jordan, Hell Hollow and Underhill roads and finally brought the Federal Emergency Management Agency to town last weekend.

“The disaster declaration FEMA was looking at at that time went back to Father’s Day but didn’t include that July 22 event,” Halleran said, who guided the agency on a tour of impacted roads. “If Sullivan County meets the minimum, which it probably will, then they would ask for a (disaster) declaration, and we stand to get some federal money to get the roads back.”

As of Wednesday, all roads in Plainfield were open to traffic except Grantham Mountain Road, which Halleran said he expects to open Thursday night.

“We’ve got some maintenance work to do, but if this is the new norm, all of the drainage in New Hampshire should be bigger,” Halleran said.

But damage beyond the roads could go uncovered. Plainfield resident Danielle Zemlicka lives on Hell Hollow Road, where a plugged culvert two weeks ago sent water rushing into her living room.

“I’ve always been worried about the brook behind my house, but this time it didn’t come from there,” Zemlicka said.

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She was asleep when her 16-year-old daughter woke her up to tell her that water had started to pour into the living room.

More frustrating than the waterlogging itself though, she said, is that her home insurance isn’t paying for it.

There hasn’t been so much other property damage in Sullivan County, Halleran said, and if a disaster declaration doesn’t come from FEMA, it will be all the more difficult to receive financial assistance. So far, there are no FEMA disaster declarations in New Hampshire related to this summer’s wet weather.

Zemlicka works in landscaping and at Poor Tom’s Tavern in Plainfield. When she’s not at work these days, she said she’s spraying bleach on mold that has started creeping up her walls.

“I don’t have a lot of money to spare, ever,” she said. “I don’t know where to start without help.”

Wet records for NHthis past month

The National Weather Service just released precipitation totals for last month. It says Hanover saw 111% more rain than it usually does for July — 10.24 inches vs. 4.48 — while Keene, N.H., saw a whopping 170% increase in total rainfall: 12.1 inches vs. an average of 4.49.

Keene, in fact, had as much rain in July as did water-logged Montpelier, which saw its wettest month ever. Fortunately for Keene, geography helped it avoid the fate of Vermont’s capital, which had several feet of water flood its entire downtown. Cheshire County has far fewer of the steep valleys that channeled so much water into parts of the Green Mountain State with disastrous results.

Elsewhere in New Hampshire, Mount Washington recorded its wettest July ever with more than 17 inches of rain, leaving hikers to deal with slippery trails and more difficult stream crossings.

“The rainy weather has caused slippery trail conditions, which have led to many of the injuries seen by Conservation Officers recently,” N.H. Fish and Game officials said in a press release about a hiker who needed rescue after getting stranded on a ledge. “Appropriate footwear should be worn while hiking — hiking boots that provide support, protection and traction are recommended.”

Many parts of Maine and Massachusetts were also much wetter than normal.

The weather service’s 30-day outlook says August is likely to be above average in precipitation and below average in temperature.

Cleaning assistanceavailable forflood-damaged homes

As of last week, the state of Vermont had received thousands of reports of damaged residences due to the catastrophic rainfall that started flooding the state July 9.

Now many of those who live in such homes may be eligible for a modest amount of additional federal support specifically earmarked for cleanup work.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced in a press release Sunday that its Clean and Sanitize Assistance program can provide up to $300 to homeowners and renters whose residences were damaged but not destroyed by the flooding — and still safe to live in.

“This Clean and Sanitize Assistance is intended to help homeowners and renters quickly address contamination from floodwaters to prevent additional losses and safety concerns,” FEMA wrote.

The assistance is available to those who live in the nine counties that have thus far received federal disaster declarations: Caledonia, Chittenden, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Rutland, Washington, Windham and Windsor counties.

Applicants for the relief money are subject to a FEMA inspection. The damage cannot otherwise be covered by insurance. FEMA may reimburse residents who have already cleaned their homes, provided they have receipts of supplies, materials or paid help.

People can apply for assistance online or by phone, at 1-800-621-3362.

CORRECTION: Stephen Halleran is Plainfield’s town administrator. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Halleran’s job title. 

The Concord Monitor con tributed to this report.

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps m ember. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.