Road crews from area towns are helping the Waitsfield Road Department clean up and repair the massive damage caused by a freak rainstorm that dropped almost three inches of water on the area in under an hour.
The Friday, May 20, event came with violent thunder and lightning at 4 p.m. causing culverts to overflow and back up, streams to jump their beds and enormous amounts of water to run down the sides of the roads, eroding ditches and the roadbed alike.
Waitsfield is in the midst of installing water pipes for its municipal water project, and in areas where that piping had recently been installed, buried and reseeded, storm damage was very pronounced.
And while there was some damage in nearby towns, Waitsfield took the brunt of the road damage. The town lost 35 culverts and saw serious damage to 14 roads; some roads had more than one area of damage. The total damage is estimated at $400,000 and the town is working with Vermont Emergency Management to receive FEMA funds to repair the damage.
In the interim, the select board, at a May 23 meeting, voted to access a $500,000 line of credit so that the repairs can be completed. The board, at an emergency meeting on May 22 declared a state of emergency and reduced the speed limit on several of the worst hit roads. The board reduced the speed limit to 15 mph on Tremblay Road, North Road, Joslin Hill Road and the lower portion of East Warren Road.
Select board chair Kate Williams said this week that the Waitsfield Road Crew’s first priority was to get the roads stabilized and make sure that there is access for essential services such as fire and medical services to all areas of town. Then the crews will begin doing more complete repairs.
When the board met on May 23, it met with representatives from Vermont Emergency Management as well as VTrans to discuss disaster relief. Williams said that the town will be included in FEMA funding that is coming to provide relief from the Lake Champlain flooding.
She said that the board was advised (and she advised homeowners with damage from the storm) to document everything related to the storm and its havoc. She said there were no guarantees that damage to private roads and driveways would be covered but said that documentation was the only way to start the process.
“Work to repair the damage done on the water project will be accounted for separately from the repairs to town roads,” Williams said.
Roads that were damaged include East Warren Road, Brook Road, Palmer Lane, East Road, Floodwoods Road (completely washed out), Joslin Hill Road, Common Road, Palmer Hill Road, Raphael Road, Bushnell Road, Long Road, North Road and Tremblay Road.
The Waitsfield Road Department will be closing roads next week for repairs. Joslin Hill Road will be closed on Tuesday, May 31, from East Warren Road to Strong Road in the morning after the school buses have gone through. The road is expected to be open from East Warren Road to Brook Road by the afternoon. Joslin Hill Road is expected to remain closed between Brook Road and Strong Road on Wednesday, June 1.
Limited one-lane traffic will be available to residents of those areas and school buses. Work will include culvert replacement and removing storm debris. Repairs are under way on North Road and Old Center Fayston Road. Repairs on other impacted roads will occur as soon as possible. Access on Floodwoods Road is limited to residents on that road only.
Town residents who have not already done so can report road damage to the town offices at 496-2218.