Water from the Connecticut River floods Route 5 in near Allen Brothers in Westminster. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Water from the Connecticut River floods Route 5 in near Allen Brothers in Westminster. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Tuesday August 30, 2011

SAXTONS RIVER -- The damage of Hurricane Irene was minimal in Bellows Falls, but Saxtons River and Rockingham are a "mess" said Tim Cullenen, municipal manager for Rockingham and Bellows Falls.

Two people had to be rescued from the raging water in Saxtons River on Sunday.

Cullenen said the two people weren't able to evacuate before the water level rose and firefighters had to be equipped in cold water suits to enter the water.

"It came up fast," Cullenen said. "Water levels rose 4 to 5 feet within just a few minutes. Their home was washed away."

Because of historic rainfall, the water level in the Saxtons River rose 16 feet, destroying roads, parked cars and homes he said.

"The Saxtons River Bridge sits 16 feet above the normal water line and the rushing water was constantly hitting the bottom of the bridge," Cullenen said.

Several roads continue to be closed, including Route 121 between Bellows Falls and Saxtons River, because of downed power lines, and 121 West between Saxtons River and Cambridgeport, he said.

"There's extensive damage but there is a detour available," Cullenen said.

The Bartonsville Covered Bridge was completely lost and two other bridges, the Hall Bridge, which stretches across Saxtons River, and the Worrall Bridge, which stretches across the Williams River, were both damaged but not lost, Cullenen said.

"They'll require extensive inspection before being reopened," he said. "What's important though is that no one was seriously injured."

In Westminster, Fire Chief Cole Streeter said two portions of Route 5 were closed due to the Connecticut River overflowing its banks.

Dams in Wilder and Bellows Falls were opened up to allow for passage of the flood waters, Streeter said.

Route 5 didn't appear to be damaged, he said, but the two closed portions were covered with mud and silt.

The intersection of Route 5 and the turn to I-91 was closed, but is expected to be open this morning.

Streeter said a number of roads were damaged and were either closed or one lane only.

"Hartley Hill is impassable," he said.

Davidson Road is one lane only, he said, and the approach to the bridge at Covered Bridge Road on the Gage Street side is washed out.

"That's going to be closed indefinitely," Streeter said.

A portion of Henwood Hill Road was also closed, but town employees were able to "tag" an old logging road through the woods that those with four-wheel-drive vehicles can navigate.

Bemis Hill, which got washed out a few months ago and was just repaired was kept from being washed out by the quick thinking of the town's road crew, which ran a backhoe up and down the road, keeping culverts open, Streeter said.

Morris Brook Road was washed out in two different spots, but is now back open to one lane, as is Hartley Hill South.

Streeter said he knew of only one house that was damaged by the storm, a home on Back Westminster Road on the Saxtons River.

Fortunately, said Streeter, no one was hurt in Westminster due to the storm.

Josh Stilts and Robert Audette can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.

The Route 30 bridge over the Rock River is closed to traffic after the river washed away a portion of the river and embankment. (Zachary P.
The Route 30 bridge over the Rock River is closed to traffic after the river washed away a portion of the river and embankment. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)