Workers start to clear the mud, water and debris off of Flat Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Workers start to clear the mud, water and debris off of Flat Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Tuesday August 30, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Monday was a day of assessing damage and cleaning up in Brattleboro.

The Whetstone Brook, swollen with rain from Hurricane Irene, thundered through town on Sunday, tearing up Route 9, knocking mobile homes from their foundations, nearly washing out the Williams Street Bridge and filling basements with water and thick mud.

In downtown Brattleboro, business owners stared helplessly at boxes of merchandise damaged by the flood water, wondering when they would be able to open their doors again to the public.

"We'd like to open as soon as possible and get our people back to work," said Paul Nadeau, store manager at Sam's Outdoor Outfitters on the Corner of Flat and Main streets.

Though the merchandise in the basement was destroyed, electricians determined that there was no damage to the store's electrical system.

Nadeau said he hopes to get the upper floors of the store open soon, but it will take a while to clean up the floor that faces Flat Street.

Peter Johnson, of Emerson's Furniture on Elliot Street, said his basement was full of water "up to the rafters."

Fortunately, the store's electrical systems are located on the first floor, but all of the goods stored in the basement "are useless," said Johnson.

At Dottie's Discount Foods, employees carrying wet food out of the building to a Dumpster navigated around other employees squeegeeing water out to the street.

"The biggest problem is the mud," said Alex Gyori, general manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, which operates Dottie's.

Dottie's manager Jim Colaceci said he hopes to have the store reopened on Wednesday.

Gyori said he hopes to have the co-op itself open today.

The Taproom at Flat Street Brew Pub was hit especially hard -- water smashed furniture to pieces and deposited slimy mud on the floor.

William Bissonnette, the manager of Flat Street Brew Pub, said he was waiting to hear from the insurance adjusters before he could make any predictions on when they would be serving beer and food.

"I am concerned about our ability to get open again," he said.

Gail Nunziata, the executive director of the Brattleboro Arts Initiative, which manages the Latchis Hotel and Theater, said the building needs a little cleanup, but it suffered very little damage.

"Things happen, you clean up," she said, with a shrug, adding she was confident Brattleboro would bounce back from the flooding.

Irene deposited water seven feet deep in the basement of the Latchis Theater and Hotel, completely covering all the mechanical equipment. Full service is not likely to be restored "for several days."

The same goes for the C.F. Church Building.

Evan James, of Evan James Limited, said he hopes to reopen on Wednesday.

The flood couldn't have happened at a worse time for the Brattleboro Boys & Girls Club, said Ricky Davidson.

"We've been closed for the past two weeks and we were getting ready to reopen today," he said.

The club was going to give backpacks full of school supplies to its members on Monday, but that, obviously, has been postponed, said Davidson.

This is not the first time the Boys & Girls Club has been flooded. In December 2009, a pipe burst in the building, causing extensive damage.

But Davidson said, as in 2009, the club won't stay closed for long.

Alex Gyori, general manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, sweeps water and mud out of Dottie’s Discount Foods on Flat Street in Brattleboro.
Alex Gyori, general manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, sweeps water and mud out of Dottie's Discount Foods on Flat Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)

"We're going to be back," he said. "We're going to do everything we need to do."

Brian Tyler, vice president of A.L. Tyler & Sons, was called to Main Street to assess the electrical damage to businesses there and get them up and running.

The Parking Garage and Lester Dunklee's Machine Shop on Flat Street were back on line Monday; Stanley Lynde's motorcycle shop was also back up but sustained damage. Experienced Goods Thrift Store will be closed until further notice.

Many of these businesses had 8-10 inches of silt deposited on the floor.

"It's a big, big mess down here ... a big sloppy mess," said Tyler.

On Williams Street, a portion of the Whetstone Studios hung precariously over the rolling waters of the brook.

The old R&M building was renovated a couple of years ago by David Parker and his business partner, and housed eight artist studios and a gallery.

"It's sad, but we'll dig our heels in," said Parker, who was able to help his tenants get most of their stuff out of the studios before the flood began.

Parker said he would repair the building, but was most concerned for his tenants who now don't have studios.

"We're hoping to find available space for them to rent," he said.

Though New England Youth Theatre, on the corner of Flat and Elm streets, appeared to be one of the hardest hit facilities in town, it actually fared pretty well, said board member Steve Fitch.

"I had visions of the stage area being flooded," he said.

But during the building's design, brackets were made at all the doors to hold metal sheets meant to prevent water from getting inside the building, and they worked.

Though the offices were a little wet, water didn't get more than 10 feet inside the front door, said Fitch.

Inspectors from the Brattleboro Fire Department, state of Vermont, AL Tyler & Sons and a structural engineer all did assessments of the damage to NEYT.

"They seemed surprised that we fared so well," said Rick Barron, technical director at NEYT. "There was not a lot of water damage inside, but we were very prepared. We had our floodgates up, and they're what saved us, undoubtedly."

The parking lot, recreational field, and tent area on the NEYT property are covered in mud, silt and debris.

All classes are slated to start on time there.

"Our hearts go out to all the individuals and local businesses affected by this disaster," said General Manager Michelle Meima. "We will do what we can to support our neighbors, families and community as we recover from Irene."

Jon Potter contributed to this report.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.