Friday September 2, 2011

HINSDALE, N.H. -- What a difference a dozen miles can make.

Tropical Storm Irene pounded large areas of Windham County on Sunday, flooding Flat Street in Brattleboro and causing an untold amount of damage in other towns such as Wardsboro, Newfane and Wilmington. But some New Hampshire towns just across the Connecticut River were spared from the most extensive destruction.

"By comparison to Brattleboro, we barely felt it," said Bart Bevis, a Chesterfield firefighter and highway supervisor. "The only thing that we got still pending, other than getting the mud off the roads, is Mountain Road, which runs parallel with the river out behind Riverside."

A portion of Mountain Road collapsed after the water receded back into the Connecticut. Highway crews are optimistic to have reconstruction work completed by the end of the week.

"It is still one-lane passable, but about half of it collapsed into the river," Bevis added.

Fire crews placed sandbags around six locations in town and assisted residents in moving personal items, which helped keep the damage relatively minimal.

Hinsdale Fire Chief Robert Johnson said only a few municipal roads were briefly closed to remove trees and make repairs to the wires.

"Other than that, we didn't have any problems. We were very, very lucky here," he said. "We got out of it pretty well unscathed."

Walpole's police department also said all town roads, including Route 12, have remained open during the aftermath of Irene. The only real closure was at the bridge into Westminster, and that was only because the Vermont side had heavy rains flooding the road.

"It was much easier to shut the bridge down than it was to let people go over the bridge and have to turn around and come back. But that was the only reason the bridge was shut down," said WPD officer David Hewes. "We also had the Cold River bridge on Route 123 shut down because the water was right up to the bridge itself. It never crossed it, never went over but it was close to it."

At the peak of the outages, Public Service of New Hampshire reported about 125,000 homes and businesses lost power. By early Thursday morning, PSNH restored power to all customers, including in Wakefield, where damage is reported as extensive.

"This has been an amazing restoration, and we're extremely proud of our crews and those from outside the state who came to help us," said David Bickford, director of Customer Operations, in a press statement. "All of the New England states, as well as Quebec, were impacted by this storm, limiting the availability of extra help. To restore that amount of customers that quickly is a credit to the crews on the road, and the team that supported them behind the scenes."

According to the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative outage map, no customers in Cheshire County remain without power.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.