ADDISON COUNTY / BRANDON — Officials responsible for maintaining the Vermont transportation and utility infrastructure faced a daunting task this week after flooding rivaling the historic deluge of 1927 overwhelmed dozens of local roads and bridges, closed portions of every state highway in Addison County for a time and knocked out electricity to more than 2,500 area power customers.
Towns in the eastern part of Addison County — those in the Green Mountains — were particularly hard hit by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene rains, though roads and power customers in the western part of the county were also affected.
“Anything that’s in the Champlain Valley looks fairly decent,” said Chris Cole, an officials with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). “But those that are bordering the Green Mountains … have really felt the impact.”
Accordingly, several highways on the eastern half of Addison County were closed during Sunday’s storm. Two of the most critical local transportation links — Route 7 through Brandon and Route 100 through Hancock and Granville — were still impassable on Wednesday.
Other state highways were also closed, including Route 17 at Memorial Park on the border of Bristol and Starksboro was washed out, which restricted access to the Appalachian Gap. Parts of Route 125 between East Middlebury and Ripton were closed due to washouts. Route 73 between Goshen and Rochester was completely washed away.
In addition, portions of the county’s other state highways were closed for a time on Monday, though they were opened later in the day. These included a portion of Route 7 south of East Middlebury, Route 73 between Routes 30 and 7, Route 74 at its intersection with Route 73, Route 22A between Routes 73 and 74, and Route 116 near the intersection with Carlstrom Road in Bristol.
In addition, the following roads were still closed on Monday morning, though most opened by Wednesday:
• Lincoln Road in Bristol was closed between Bartlett Falls and Circle Current because the road was washed out.
“It’s totally gone,” said Bristol town administrator Bill Bryant. “About 150-250 feet were completely washed out.”
• New Haven’s Nash Bridge was still blockaded on Monday with “Road Closed” signs after town officials said high waters poured over the bridge on Sunday. Waters receded later that day.
• Bristol’s Carlstrom Road.
• Bristol’s Lower Notch Road and Upper Notch Road were blocked by downed power lines.
• The bridge on Hall Road in Lincoln that connects to Robinson Road was under construction after part of it was washed away. The bridge was partially restored and deemed “passable” by local officials on Monday afternoon.
• South Lincoln Road was washed out near the town garage.
“One lane is completely gone,” said Lincoln Selectboard Chair Barb Rainville on Monday. “We’re hoping to get it filled in enough to open it up to one-lane traffic by the end of the day. That was our largest damage area and about 50 feet or so were washed out to the center line.”
• Lincoln’s French Settlement Road was washed away.
• Starksboro’s Jerusalem Road was also washed out.
“We had water over the bridges and water coming down the middle of the road,” said Starksboro Town Clerk Cheryl Estey. “It washed away part of the road.”
• Leicester’s Jerusalem Road was closed Wednesday as rising waters from the Otter Creek rushed over it.
The status of repairs to Route 100 and local roads in Hancock and Granville was still up in the air Wednesday, as residents were counting themselves lucky to get food and water relief airlifted in by the National Guard.
BRANDON ROUTE 7 BRIDGE
Another key transportation link in the area was Bridge 114 in Brandon, the Route 7 span over the Neshobe River.
It looks as though the bridge could have traffic moving through Brandon by the end of the week.
According to a statement released by Brandon selectboard Chair Richard Baker, bridge inspectors arrived on Tuesday morning and were able to at least partially assess the integrity of the bridge. Baker said the inspectors were able to inspect the north arch of the double arch bridge, but the water was still too high to inspect the south arch.
“Inspectors are assessing bridges all over the state and are tentatively planning for another inspection on Thursday,” Baker said. “In the meantime, town officials working with Markowski’s (Excavating) will be prepping the roadways on both sides of the bridge with a base in anticipation of a positive inspection on Thursday. After a final inspection and approval, the bridge will then be prepared for traffic. Two-way traffic, over one lane at least, will be prepared. If all goes as planned, the potential for Route 7 to be reopened could be sometime late Friday. Again, that is if all goes as planned.”
Baker said the north arch was considered to be in “good shape,” and that if the south arch is as good or better, the road will open by the end of the week. The question is still whether it will be one lane or two.
At the peak of the storm about 70,000 Central Vermont Public Service customers statewide were without power, and a few thousand from other utilities.
At about 10 a.m. on Monday, CVPS was reporting 2,518 outages in Addison County and Green Mountain Power was reporting 91. CVPS said more than 811 Lincoln customers — most of the town — were without power. The town of New Haven was listed as having more than 500 customers without power; Cornwall and Ripton had 151-500 customers without electricity, and most other towns in the county had many outages.
CVPS was hoping to finish work to restore power to Addison County customers on Wednesday, but presumably that didn’t include those served by a power transfer station in Rochester that was destroyed and could take months to replace.
CVPS hired 600 outside contractors to assist its own workers in the power restoration effort. On Wednesday, a CVPS spokeswoman said that crews and support staff had been working 18- and 20-hour shifts since before the storm began, and would continue to do so until the restoration work was done.
State officials are applying for recovery funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the Federal Highway Administration to help repair Vermont’s state highways. The amount of aid depends on the extent of the damage, which Cole could not even begin to estimate.
“This is such an unprecedented disaster for Vermont in modern history,” said Cole. “This is a statewide disaster of significant historical proportions.”
Reporters Ian Trombulak, Andrew Stein, Lee Kahrs and John Flowers contributed to this story.
Where to get help
• Residents who have been affected by Tropical Storm Irene are asked to call 211 to report their situation. Individual reports helps state officials document the extent of the damage and form the basis for Vermont’s requests for federal disaster relief funding.
• Businesses in need of assistance may call a special Department of Commerce hotline: 802-828-3211 between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Addison County Economic Development Corporation (388-7953) and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce (388-7951) may also be able to reference specific programs available.
• For up to date information about state road and bridge closures, visit www.511vt.com.
Where to give help
A number of organizations are soliciting donations and volunteers to help with recovery efforts. Contact the organizations at:
• The Red Cross of Vermont and New Hampshire at www.redcrossvtnhuv.org.
• Vermont Foodbank at www.vtfoodbank.org.
• A grassroots recovery effort is connecting those who want to help with those across the state who need help. Go to vtresponse.wordpress.com.