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Flood slams Brandon, inundates some Addison County roads

BRANDON — No one standing on Center Street in Brandon Saturday evening could believe their eyes.
Forty days after Brandon celebrated the completion of a $2.3 million flood overflow culvert under Route 7, there it was, doing its job, diverting millions of gallons of muddy water from the raging Neshobe River and saving the downtown from a flood just like the one in 2011.
Suddenly, $2.3 million was a small price to pay.
“It makes me sick to my stomach to think about what if it wasn’t completed,” said Brandon Town Manager Dave Atherton on Sunday. “It’s good to see a multi-million-dollar project work the way it’s supposed to. The way the water came up was just crazy.”
After a rain-soaked month capped by several consecutive days of rain, including a long afternoon of occasional downpours on Saturday, residents in Brandon, Addison County and in many other parts of the Green Mountain State saw streams, creeks and rivers overflow their banks, prompting the closure of many roads and concerns about other infrastructure.
While downtown Brandon was spared a repeat of the flooding that came with Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, it was déjà vu for residents of Newton Road in Forest Dale.
The Neshobe River did not back up onto Furnace Road this time, but it swept large boulders down the river, creating a dam effect and forcing the flood water across and down Newton Road.
The water came halfway up the side of the High Pond Woodworking building by 4 p.m. Friday afternoon before slowly receding.
Farther down the road, Nick Audet became a minor Facebook Live sensation as he filmed himself with his phone outside his small, white house, completely surrounded by floodwaters. Audet narrated the entirety of the 10-minute video wading through the floodwater in his stocking feet, at one point standing in the fastest current, saying his cat had perished and hoping his lawnmower wouldn’t be carried away.
Also on Friday, VTRoads on Twitter reported that Route 116 South in Bristol between Carlstrom and Cove roads had water flowing across the road. State police were notified.
As for the rest of Brandon, the Neshobe Golf Course flooded where the river winds through the greens, and Route 73 was under water from the entrance to Wheeler Road all the way past the Brandon Police Station. By Sunday morning, though, every road in Brandon was re-opened to traffic except Newton Road.
In Addison County, Ripton may have seen the worst of it. The Vermont Agency of Transportation closed part of Route 125 between the Ripton store and East Middlebury on Saturday as flooding took out guardrails. The road was reduced to one lane due to flooding on Sunday and as of Wednesday traffic was moving, but delayed as work to restore the guardrails continued.
Water went across Route 100 in Hancock on Saturday, closing the road for a while.
Witnesses reported water over the road on Route 125 in Cornwall as the Lemon Fair River left its banks; and water was also reportedly on the pavement of Route 7 in East Middlebury thanks to the surging Middlebury River that had closed part of Route 125 in Ripton.
Lake Dunmore rose more than a foot in four days, and docks were either floating or submerged. Reports said motorboats were banned on Sunday because the wakes were a threat to the docks. There are sandbags near the dam that runs under West Shore Road near Waterhouses.
Back in Brandon, the town’s Independence Day parade went off on Saturday afternoon, but it was a soggy affair. The fireworks were postponed until this coming Saturday, July 8.
Atherton and Brandon Public Works Director Daryl Burlett were on scene on Newton Road at 4:30 Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday morning, Burlett had a stream alteration permit from the state so he could start moving boulders and rocks back into the river.
Atherton said they could hear the rocks and boulders being moved by the rushing river water downstream on Saturday evening.
“It sounded like a bunch of marbles getting knocked around,” he said.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation had already been on scene by Sunday morning, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was contacted.
Burlett said the federal government can only declare a disaster if the state claims at least $1 million in damage, which should not be a problem. The towns of Ripton, Bradford, Rochester, Norwich, Barre, and Thetford also reported flooding damage to roads and culverts.
Atherton said the town expects to have all the debris cleaned up and Newton Road repaired by the end of the week. Markowski Excavating has been retained to do the repairs, which Atherton said will cost an estimated $520,000.
On Sunday morning in Brandon, onlookers came out to survey the damage on Newton Road. Huge chunks of asphalt lay like broken piecrust, the road cracked wide open by floodwater, with crevices big enough to stand in. The foundation of the High Pond Woodworking building was completely exposed, and large, bare trees laid amidst the rocks and boulders next to the riverbed like sleeping skeletons.
River water was still running down the middle of the road at 11 a.m. Sunday. Just up from the wastewater substation, the Lee family had built a campfire in their front yard and sat watching the floodwater flow past the house.
Michael R. Lee said he stayed at the house while his wife, Stacey, was taken out by family friend Josh Mohan at the height of the flooding.
“I stayed with the ship,” Lee said. “I’ve got Harleys in the garage. The water made it to the bottom of the motors, but everything is O.K.”
Mohan said he spent the evening transporting several people and dogs from and then back to the houses along Newton Road.
The flood was a complete surprise to everyone along the road, Lee said.
“We had no idea it was coming,” he said. “At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, it started to rise, and it rose fast.”
Two doors up, Erika Stockledger, 34, was tying her black Pomeranian, Bella, to a tree. She said she had four feet of water in her basement and was waiting for a generator and a sump pump. On Saturday night, she was working late at a catering event at Café Provence. Neighbors helped get her 12-year-old son, Kayden, out of the house during the flood and brought him to the restaurant.
“I was here for Irene,” Stockledger said. “I’ve lived in this house for 30 years. We thought we wouldn’t have to see this kind of flooding again for 100 years, and this was worse than Irene.”

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