Water washes out a dozen roads in Winchester


WINCHESTER, N.H. -- Town officials spent much of Wednesday assessing damage caused by several road washouts that occurred when an unnamed brook and a beaver pond could no longer sustain the volumes of water they were holding following Tuesday's storm.

Selectman Sherman Tedford told the Reformer his board had met Wednesday morning and were planning to convene again later in the afternoon and this morning to discuss ways to deal with the devastation that shook the town. He said roads that were washed out included Old Westport, Gunn Mountain, Watson and Jantti roads and a section of Route 119 where it intersects with Purcell Road. Tedford said the Ashuelot River has taken over part of Old Westport Road, which he said contains the scariest damage. There were no known injuries.

Old Westport Road was severed by the washout and Tedford said people on the other side are temporarily stranded -- and emergency services cannot get across. He said Watson Road was just as badly damaged. Town Administrator Shelly Walker said roughly 12 roads got washed out and about six are no longer passable at this time. She was happy to report, however, that no one seemed to lose electricity during the storm or in its watery aftermath. She said the selectmen will work with the state government on how to repair the damage.

"We'll get through this," Walker said. "It's not going to be easy, and I'm sure it's not going to be quick, but we'll get through it."

Chris Hope, a highway patrol foreman with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, told the Reformer the intersection of Route 119 and Purcell Road was under a foot of surging water when the brook and beaver pond failed.

"In this spot," he said, gesturing to the intersection, "the water overwhelmed the brook up above and overwhelmed all the catch basins and pipe work that come down the road and (it) just came down the road."

He said the floodwaters started coming around 11:30 p.m. or midnight. He said the NHDOT temporarily closed Route 119 at 2 a.m. and estimated his crew would be working at the scene until about 5 p.m. Wednesday. The road was reduced to one lane of traffic as of noon on Wednesday.

Resident Paul Taylor told the Reformer he lives at 2 Ashuelot Main St. (Route 119) and his driveway and garden were destroyed.

"I was inside the house. .. I heard rain and I said, 'Oh, no. I better take a look,'" he recalled, "and I looked outside and I came downstairs and there was water pouring through my front door and then I looked at the basement and said, 'This is a mess. I've got to get my tenant out of the house.'"

Taylor said he will need a new driveway, the residence's foundation will have to be repaired and some mold must be remediated.

New Hampshire state Sen. Molly Kelley, D-Keene, was at the intersection of Route 119 and Purcell Road to examine the damage with Tedford and Selectman Theresa Sepe around noon on Wednesday.

"What we're doing today, right now, is really just assessing what the damage is," she said. "Obviously, our biggest concern is safety for the people who are living in places where the roads have gone out, and getting any kind of equipment up there for ... evacuation if needed."

She said the road crew members and town officials were doing an incredible job of handling the situation.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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