RIPTON/MIDDLEBURY — In a scene somewhat reminiscent of the flooding of August 2008, Route 125 from East Middlebury to Ripton experienced washouts in three locations as Tropical Storm Irene ripped through Addison County Sunday.
In one location, the Middlebury River took out a swath of guardrail, noted Ripton Selectman Richard Collitt.
“It’s nothing as serious as 2008,” Collitt said, harkening back to a brutal stretch of rain that erased several portions of Route 125 and took out entire sections of some local roads in Ripton, East Middlebury, Salisbury, Leicester, Goshen and Hancock.
“The town roads fared a lot better,” Collitt said, though he cautioned that some small bridges on private roads in Lincoln likely sustained some damage that might not be covered through federal disaster aid grants.
Indeed, most of the repairs made to local infrastructure following the 2008 flood — including the new Lower Plains Bridge in East Middlebury — stood up to Irene. The exceptions proved to be a small part of the Ripton Road and a washout on either side of the culvert near the town garage.
Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, noted the washout areas of Route 125 were in some of the same locations as in 2008.
“I have a strong feeling that a different way of repairing (Route 125) would be in order,” Jewett said.
Motorists traveling to and from Ripton via East Middlebury are detouring to the Dugway Road and the North Branch Road.
That detour wouldn’t have been possible throughout most of Sunday. That’s because the water was hip-deep on Route 125 through East Middlebury during the early Sunday evening. The Middlebury River had jumped its banks to an even greater extent than it had in 2008.
Middlebury fire and police officials had begun monitoring the river banks Saturday afternoon.
Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley said it became clear that flooding would become an issue late Sunday afternoon, when the Middlebury River was rising at a rate of one foot per hour. That’s when officials opened an emergency shelter in the municipal gym and advised East Main Street residents to evacuate.
“You could hear these large boulders clicking and clacking their way down the river,” Hanley said.
Middlebury Fire Chief Rick Cole said he and fellow firefighters began advising people to evacuate affected areas at around 6 p.m.
Sean Donahue said he heard water rushing through his basement while he was in the upstairs of his house across from the Waybury Inn on East Main Street Sunday night. He said he was upset that officials didn’t knock on his door to evacuate him. The rushing waters pushed around vehicles in his driveway and caused an estimated $60,000-$70,000 in damage, Donahue said.
Fortunately, the shelter proved short-lived and sparsely populated. The river level began to recede at around 8 p.m., according to Hanley. Area residents made it through the day with some wet basements but no reported injuries.
“The culvert system around town worked incredibly well,” Hanley said. “I have to give credit to the DPW.”
East Middlebury residents were particularly relieved to see the new Lower Plains Road Bridge passed its first flood challenge with flying colors. The previous bridge was taken out after the 2008 flood. Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner said crews will only need to replace some rock armoring on both sides of the span.
But Werner identified a few trouble spots that will need to be fortified, hopefully with the use of federal disaster relief funds. Among them is a concrete retaining wall that was built almost 90 years ago along a stretch of the Middlebury River just south of the Grist Mill Bridge. And Werner noted an earthen berm that continues just past that wall was blown out in Sunday’s flooding, so that will have to be replaced.
Other roads in Middlebury were closed for awhile after the storms due to high water, including Three Mile Bridge Road, Shard Villa Road, Blake Roy Road and Creek Road, according to Tom Scanlon, public information officer under Middlebury’s emergency management plan.
“I think we dodged a bullet here in Middlebury, compared to north and south of us,” Scanlon said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]