Thunderstorms pound region
BRATTLEBORO -- A band of severe thunderstorms pounded southeastern Vermont Thursday afternoon, knocking out power and washing out and flooding roads.
Canal Street in front of Gouger's Market washed out from strong run off that flowed down to the Whetstone Brook and Elm Street was closed between Flat and Canal streets.
Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said town officials were watching National Weather Service warnings like they do any time severe weather is on the way, but he said the widespread damage was striking.
"We certainly saw the warnings, but most of the time we don't have these type of results," he said. "It was a little surprising."
Moreland said the town is documenting the damage and will work with state transportation officials to determine if it will be possible to apply for federal assistance.
On Chestnut Street a section of sidewalk was undermined when a culvert plugged and the area was barricaded off.
There were also a few washouts on private property near Morningside Cemetery and on Williams Street
"We are going to continue to monitor this until the rain is done and we know everyone is safe," Moreland said.
A section of Guilford Street near Frog Hill Road was covered with water due to a plugged culvert and Bridge Street had a small wash out as well.
Lynde Motorsports on Flat Street also flooded when storm drains clogged and the water ran down the street to his Flat Street shop.
Main Street was flooded in front of the Post Office for part of the afternoon and traffic moved slowly through town and up and down Western Avenue.
According to Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi, despite the flooding of city streets, the town's creeks and Whetstone Brook appeared to be well below flood level.
"It appears the storm stayed to the east side of the Interstate," said Bucossi. "The storms have stayed away from the west side of town and the brook is in good shape."
However, said Bucossi, he and the rest of the town's emergency responders are keeping their eyes on another line of storms heading our way.
"We've had street flooding at Elm, Flat and Frost streets and the Elm Street bridge has been damaged," he said.
During the storm, the Brattleboro Fire Department assisted with power lines down on Carriage Hill and a traffic accident with minor injuries on Vernon Street.
In addition, a tree had fallen across power lines on Putney Road, said Bucossi, and water was flowing into the basement of the Centre Congregational Church on Main Street
The Wilmington Fire Department reported that no streets had been closed during the storm.
"We just got hit with off and on lightning storms all day," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy. "There's hasn't been a steady streaming of rain."
Rockingham Highway Supervisor Mike Hindes said at roughly 4:30 p.m. he had just called in for some additional personnel following "a hell of a rain storm."
He said he was busy checking the rural areas but had not heard of any damage. He said his crew and some contractors had just finished sandbagging a spot of Brockway Mills Road to prevent water from getting underneath the asphalt that his crew had just paved in the morning. The contractors had been hired to rebuild the road.
In Hinsdale, N.H., Fire Chief Jay Matuszewski said Hinsdale High School was hit by lightning.
"It charred some of the breakers in one of the electrical panels," he said. "There was no major damage. An electrician is taking care of it."
There were also reports of lightning strikes around town. In one case, a man reportedly injured his hand after his garage was struck twice while he was inside.
Chesterfield Road Agent Bart Bevis said the town has lost a few sections of road.
Water is also covering a few others because the culverts just can't take the volume of water dumped by the rain storm. At 5:55 p.m. his department was in "survey mode" and was trying to clear the culverts of any debris.
He said he hopes to clear at least one lane of the washed out roads so emergency vehicles can get through.
A strong band of thundershowers moved across the region at around 2 p.m.
Kevin Lipton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. said the severe storms were wedged between the hot muggy air that Vermont experienced the past few days and a cold front that was heading towards New England.
He said it was unusual to have such severe thunderstorms this late in the summer, but the hot and humid weather helped form the band of showers.
Between 2 to 3 inches of rain fell between 1 and 5 p.m. he said, with winds that gusted up to 45 miles per hour.
"It was incredible rain. We saw heavy rain and lightning and gusty winds," he said. "It's not unprecedented, but it is unusual for us to see storms like this late in the season.
The National Weather Service had flash flood warnings posted all afternoon and into the evening.
More heavy rain was in the forecast for Thursday night, but it's expected to clear up for the weekend, he said, with temperatures dipping back to more season levels, the mid-60s in the day and mid-40s at night.
At 4 p.m. Green Mountain Power said 165 homes in Brattleboro had lost power and another 215 in Vernon were also dark.
Across the state GMP said tens of thousands of customers were without electricity in the afternoon and crews were able to restore power to about 33,000 with the help of crews that came in from out of state.
Schools were closed in parts of Orange, Rutland, Washington and Windsor counties after the storms.
And Public Service of New Hampshire reported 90 percent of its customers in Chesterfield were without power with another 600 in Hinsdale and more than 500 in Westmoreland also without service.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.
Reformer reporters Bob Audette and Domenic Poli contributed to this story.
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