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The Commons
Photo 1

Janis Hall/Courtesy photo

What's left of a driveway serving two homes on West River Road in Brattleboro (Route 30).


Heavy rains pelt Windham County

Road crews get to work after a series of storms dump upwards of 4 inches of rain, causing flooding, mudslides, and washouts

Originally published in The Commons issue #413 (Wednesday, June 21, 2017).

BRATTLEBORO—Town highway departments were busy Tuesday repairing washouts after a line of severe thunderstorms sent rivers, brooks, and streams over their banks across Windham County on Monday afternoon.

As much as 4 inches of rain fell over the region between midmorning and late afternoon on Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. As a result, widespread flash flooding was reported throughout the county.

Flooding and a mudslide closed Route 30 near the Brattleboro-Dummerston town line for a time on Monday afternoon, and mudslides were also reported on Route 9 in West Brattleboro near the Vermont Maple Museum. Both roads reopened for one lane of traffic by early evening.

A mud slide near Westminster Station closed Route 5 for a couple of hours on Monday.

Brattleboro Public Works crews had to perform emergency repairs to several roads around town, according to Public Works Director Steve Barrett.

Sinkholes and backups

Bonnyvale Road in West Brattleboro and Black Mountain Road in Brattleboro saw several washouts from the storm, Barrett said Tuesday.

Sinkholes also developed on Williams Street in Brattleboro, a road that was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Storm drains backed up on Main Street in Brattleboro by the Post Office, flooding the street for a time around 3 p.m. Monday. Spotty flooding was also reported on Putney Road in Brattleboro, as well as on Flat Street.

Barrett said preventive maintenance played a role in keeping the damage to roads light. “We cleaned out the culverts in the spring and regraded the gravel roads,” he said. “We learned a lot from Irene.”

There was one trouble spot, however, Barrett said. DPW crews on Tuesday were working on a culvert on Western Avenue just beyond Creamery Bridge.

According to Barrett, the narrow culvert is about 100 years old and runs under the road carrying runoff from a small, intermittent stream.

The culvert got plugged up with a trash can, and the runoff that resulted may have undermined part of the roadway, Barrett said.

Traffic on Western Avenue was down to one lane on Tuesday afternoon while repairs were made.

Safety tips for the next storm

The last of Monday’s thunderstorms passed through the area by about 6 p.m., leaving in its wake rain totals that ranged from 1.69 inches in East Dover, to 2.14 inches in Halifax, to 2.49 inches in Rockingham, to 2.94 inches in West Brattleboro, to 4.3 inches in East Dummerston and Putney.

Fortunately, there were no injuries from Monday’s storms. But heavy rains have become a frequent occurrence in the region during the past decade, leaving extensive damage and, in some cases, death, in its wake.

Flash flooding in Alstead and Walpole, N.H., in October 2005 left four people dead and destroyed nearly 40 homes and miles of roads and bridges along the Cold River.

And Irene’s flood waters in August 2011 resulted in three deaths in Vermont and more than $200 million in damage to roads, homes, and businesses.

Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi reminded people to never drive or walk into flood waters.

“Too many people continue to drive around barriers that warn of the road being closed due to flooding or undermining,” Bucossi said in a news release. “A mere 6 inches of moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.”

Bucossi also reminded people to watch out for downed power lines after a storm and to be particularly careful around downed trees, because they might be screening downed lines.

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