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Flash floods devastate several Moretown roads
By Kara Herlihy
At least 10 of Moretown's major Class III and IV roads were severely damaged in last weekend's flash flood. Among the most devastating damage was the complete washout of the Moretown Mountain Road -- currently closed to traffic.
On August 4, the Moretown Select Board took inventory of the damaged roadways and discussed their plans for repairing the flood-affected roads. Select Board member Stephanie Venema affirmed that it "has been a very hectic three days."
Following the heavy rains of Friday afternoon and evening, the town road crew worked tirelessly all weekend, according to Moretown Fire Department Chief Eric Howes. "We spent a lot of hours up there," Howes continued.
Any repairs accomplished after Friday's storms were overshadowed by the onslaught of heavy rains and the subsequent flooding that followed on Saturday afternoon. According to select board members, damage estimates range between $150,000 to $500,000.
While several of Moretown's roads experienced varied levels of damage, those subject to severe washouts were Moretown Mountain Road, Jones Brook Road, Dickerson Road and Wards Brook Road. Additional extensive damage was reported to private driveways and others roads in the area such as Herring Brook Road.
Venema informed other members of the select board that the town "is facing major costs" to repair the roads and will inevitably have to seek emergency assistance from either FEMA or the Agency of Transportation.
The board also discussed whether they would require a National Weather System Declaration of Disaster in order to accrue federal funding to simply repair the roads to make them passable, or embark on a total redesign/rebuilding of the affected roads.
"Rebuilding roads is a big-time cost," Venema said. Select board member Rae Washburn questioned whether the roads will be repaired in order to just make them passable or whether they would be built back up to where they once were.
Rebuilding would involve the replacement of several culverts and gathering the necessary materials including gravel. Select board member Paula Mastroberardino asked how repairs, as opposed to rebuilding, would hold up in the winter months with increased water and plowing.
The town estimates that the damage inflicted on the roads as a result of the multiple landslides could reach as high as $500,000. The town currently has no funding set aside for emergencies of this nature, according to Venema.
"Stabilizing the roads is the safest thing for everybody," commented Howes. The board said there need to be "Road Closed" signs posted at both ends of the Moretown Mountain Road, as well as work to stabilize it and Dickerson Road to make them passable.
The town plans to speak with several state and federal emergency officials, including Senator Sanders' office, to determine the necessary next steps in declaring a state of emergency and acquiring relief funding.
Venema said she had spoken with the Vermont Emergency Management director, who advised the town to make the roads safely passable before any major rebuilding occurs, as well as document everything in detail before proceeding.
"We're going to need cash flow no matter what," said select board chair Don Wexler, "whether it is a Band-Aid fix or an engineer and design plan."
Members of the public present at the August 4 meeting commended the town road crew and emergency personnel for their "tireless" efforts and countless hours spent over the two-day deluge.
"No one's figured out what to do," said Wexler. "Emergencies come up," added Washburn.
By Lisa Loomis
As The Valley Reporter went to press on August 6, the Duxbury Select Board was in an emergency hearing to deal with damage to Ward Hill from a localized and intense thunderstorm that occurred on August 2.
Road Foreman David Quenneville learned from Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel that the town would receive federal funds for the repairs to the road. FEMA representatives told Quenneville that because the total damage from the August 2 storm on Moretown, Berlin and Duxbury exceeded a million dollars, federal assistance would be forthcoming.
Quenneville estimated the cost of repairing the road to be upwards of $50,000 to $60,000.
The damage to Ward Hill started near the top of the steep dirt road on Saturday, Quenneville said, when a culvert collapsed.
"Because Ward Hill is straight uphill, all that water roared down and became a tsunami," he said.
He was called to the road at 2 p.m. on Saturday where Duxbury's road crew had been working on Friday and had heavy equipment on site.
TEN FEET DEEP
"When I got there, the road by Carlos Nelson's house was washed out 10 feet deep for about a half mile above that. I had to drive on an island of dirt in the middle of the two ditches to get to the top and open up the culverts," he said.
By the time the rain stopped, a fair amount of Ward Hill had ended up in the yard of Bob Adams, who lives at the bottom of the hill on Duxbury Woods Road.
"We've taken 40 tandem truck loads from Bob Adams' yard and have another 20 loads to remove," Quenneville said. He and his road crew, with the help of local excavating contractors used ditching material to recreate Ward Hill, plus the material from Adams' yard, plus stone that the town had stockpiled at the town garage.
The road is passable and Quenneville said he felt it was stable, but as rain continued to fall on August 6, he said, "We don't need the rain."