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Warm, rainy weather increases threat of ice jams

Route 9 closed briefly after Whetstone Brook overflows

BRATTLEBORO—A weekend of heavy rain and unseasonably warm temperatures swept through Southern Vermont, leading to ice jams on area waterways.

According to Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi, Whetstone Brook in West Brattleboro briefly overflowed its banks in the early morning hours of Jan. 12.

Bucossi said the department got word at about 2 a.m. that water and large ice chunks were flowing across Westgate Drive near the bridge.

Water flooded onto Route 9 and closed the road for about an hour until the flow of water in the Whetstone behind the jam broke up the ice.

“It was pretty much over before we knew about it,” said Bucossi. “A lot of ice came out of the brook onto the road. Public Works did a great job cleaning things up after the water went down.”

Bucossi said minor damage was reported at the Tri-Park Mobile Home Community and at some properties by the Westgate Apartments.

“We don’t know where the ice came from, because that spot of the brook wasn’t on our radar,” Bucossi said, adding that he thought the ice might have come from another ice jam further upstream.

Fire officials are still monitoring two ice jams: one on the Whetstone, near Meadowbrook Road, in West Brattleboro. Bucossi said that there has been some minor flooding, but nothing serious as of press time. The other major concern is the West River near The Marina restaurant and along Route 30 north of the Interstate 91 bridges.

“Neither one [on the West River] budged during the weekend,” said Bucossi.

According to the National Weather Service, Windham County received about an inch of rain on Jan. 11, and high temperatures ranged from 48 degrees in Putney to 52 degrees in Wilmington.

Those high temperatures came late in the day. It was still cold enough on the morning of Jan. 11 for area roads to ice over. State police reported numerous accidents around the state, and both Interstate 91 and Interstate 89 were closed for a time due to icing.

The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., had Southern Vermont under a flood watch all weekend. A flood watch means that flooding is possible under certain conditions, but is not imminent.

No flooding of area streams and rivers was reported to the National Weather Service as of Tuesday morning, and their network of river measuring gauges show that water levels are slowly receding. Daytime temperatures are expected to stay above freezing through the end of the week.

Bucossi said that people who live near a waterway should closely watch the situation and be prepared to take appropriate action based on circumstances. Brattleboro residents may call the fire department at 802-254-4831 with any questions or concerns.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #237 (Wednesday, January 15, 2014). This story appeared on page A1.

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