|John and Heidi Bridgewater’s house is raised on cribbing in preparation to pour the new foundation on top of the 1998 foundation. The house was flooded in 1998 and again this past August. Photo: Lisa Loomis|
John and Heidi Bridgewater’s house on Bridge Street is going up – about six feet – in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene’s wrath.
A foundation is being poured on top of a one-foot foundation that Bridgewater was in the process of installing when the flood of 1998 hit. The new foundation will bring the level of his first floor slightly above Route 100 so that in the event of future flooding, the water will flow across the road and not into his house.
The cribbing that was used to raise the house was visible this week as workers from Gendron Construction prepared to pour the new foundation on the top of the 1998 foundation. Before that work could begin, Bridgewater had to remove the clay muck from his foundation. Steel beams support the weight of the house laterally. After the beams were in place four hydraulic pumps lifted the house a foot at a time as the cribbing was installed and the floor leveled so that the foundation could be poured.
During the 1998 flood, the water rose to two feet on the first floor of the house. It was higher during Irene, two and a half feet, give or take, but not up to the kitchen counters.
The Bridgewaters were home when Irene hit on August 28 and had prepared by getting some heavy-duty pumps in their cellar.
“But that wasn’t enough. We saw a two-foot wall of water coming towards the house and it filled the basement like a swimming pool. The water was chasing me up the driveway,” he said, noting that he ripped the electric meter out as he ran.
At the same time, his neighbors, the Winchesters, were on the spot, helping move things and also storing the half of a pig, which the Bridgewaters had in their refrigerator, in their own freezer.
“They were right there helping us. We got the couch on the kitchen counter and the rugs and carpets off the first floor just as the water came through the first-floor floorboards,” he said.
It’s still going to be a year before their house is habitable. The $100,000 rebuild has been time consuming and they are going forward as they can afford the work. They hope to be able to live in their basement as soon as it is habitable and then they’ll keep working on the first and second floors of their house.
“The day after the flood I was saying that I couldn’t do this again, couldn’t put that kind of work to get back in there, but then we had so much help and support from the community and our neighbors that lifted our spirits and changed our minds. We’re now on the mend,” he said.
“It’s one project at a time,” he added.
Their efforts to get back in their house were greatly helped by Asah Rowles of the Mad River Long Term Flood Recovery Group. She, Bridgewater said, has been instrumental in helping them receive grants from the Mad River Community Fund and has been helping them pursue other state grants and funding.
Bridgewater’s house was built in 1803 and was originally used as a drying shed for the lumber mill that was located on the Mad River. He moved into the house in 1995 and continued converting the shed into a residence, a task that he and his wife are redoing again.