Sepp Meier is one of the residents stranded at home after a stretch of Colby Hill Road in Madison washed away during torrential rain Sunday.
“We still can’t get our cars out,” he said, after part of the road’s black top collapsed, noting that neighbors have offered help and transportation. Meier, who watched “buckets” of rain fall, is prepared to wait another week for his road to be repaired.
“The resources of our town are limited, and there is a lot of damage, not just to Colby Road,” he said.
Heavy rains on Sunday hit some parts of the state hard — damaging roads, flooding basements, and even causing a sinkhole, as some of the state waterways have reached record highs. The central part of the state including Manchester, towns in the Lakes Region, and Epsom were all impacted.
Residents around the state are dealing with the damage, as towns work to assess and repair the damages. They don’t all have the same means to do so.
Mike Brooks is the fire chief of Madison’s volunteer fire and rescue department. He said there are a number of residents in Meier’s situation: unable to travel to and from their houses by car, with half a mile of road washed away. He said a substantial amount of Conway Road has been lost, and Grison Road and Route 113 have also been damaged.
“There’s nobody,” he said. “The state crews have all been called to Alton.”
Brooks said Monday the town’s Department of Public Works has been working all day to remove debris from the state road so they can gain access to it and start repairs. Debris covering the road where Colby Hill meets Conway Road is 4 feet deep, he said.
He said it’s too soon to estimate how long repairs will take. “The scope of the erosion is incredible,” he said.
Rebuilding the roads is an expense the town did not budget for, according to Brooks. He said he’s hoping for a disaster declaration, which could bring extra funding. But “in the short term, we have to pay for everything,” he said. “We don’t have the money because we didn’t plan for this.”
The Select Board will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to figure out how to pay for the damage.
Brooks said that’s a heavy burden on a 2,645 person-town like Madison with a smaller property tax base than towns like Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, or Wolfeboro.
In Alton, Select Board chair Paul LaRochelle helped with the town’s repair efforts. He said three other towns have sent equipment and trucks to help clear gravel and debris, including Moultonborough, Bedford, and Dover.
Meanwhile, state crews are working to repair Route 140, after the road caved in underneath one of the culverts, according to LaRochelle. He said state crews are also at work on Route 11. Route 28 has also been affected.
“It was probably one of the most intense rains I’ve seen in a short period of time,” he said. “We had over 5 inches of rain in less than three hours.”
LaRochelle said he’s heard about several flooded basements, including the American Legion, where he estimated 2 to 3 inches of water accumulated.
He expects town roads to be passable within two to three days, and said most are already a although work remains to make them safer. That includes repairing culvertres and working on the pavement.
He said Route 140 was washed out, after the road caved in underneath the culvert. State crews are now working to repair it, he said. They are also working on Route 11.
“We’re doing very well,” he said. “Our town officials and people are working diligently on town roads that did wash out.”
He expects town roads to be passable within two to three days, and said most are already are, although work remains to make them safer. That includes repairing culverts and working on the pavement.
The city of Manchester’s fire department received over 800 calls on Sunday alone from residents who had basement flooding or water issues at home, according to the city’s Fire Chief Ryan Cashin.
He said the biggest problem was that Steven’s Pond overflowed its banks. The significant rain caused flooding ranging from 6 inches to several feet in people’s basements, according to Cashin.
The city responded by opening an Emergency Operations Center for five hours on Sunday, allowing it to coordinate response efforts among fire, police, and highway resources.
“We ended up hiring a few additional firefighters on our squad, as well as hiring an additional detail strictly to manage pumps that the fire department had lent out,” Cashin said. He said those efforts will be paid for through the department’s budget, and the city foots the bill when residents call for help pumping their basement.
Cashin noted that only covers removing life-threatening levels of water that could cause electrical or gas problems, but the residents will still have to address the water damage.
Now the city is under “enhanced monitoring,” as officials keep an eye on water bodies including Steven’s Pond as well as the Piscataqua and Merrimack Rivers.
Next, the city will complete a damage assessment to determine a dollar amount in damages from the flooding.
About 100 roads in the state were closed or damaged due to flooding, state officials from the Department of Transportation told WMUR. New England 511 published a list of N.H. roads impacted by flooding.
Some parts of the watershed for Lake Winnipesaukee received upwards of 6 inches of rain yesterday, according to Corey Clark, the chief engineer for the dam bureau at New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
“The rainfall that came in yesterday was very localized,” he said, impacting areas like Manchester, Wolfeboro, and Antrim.
He said the state is focused on lowering water in the lakes to prepare for another few inches of rain in the forecast.
Ted Diers, assistant director of the department’s water division, said some parts of the state haven’t seen this level of water since as far back as 2006, and in others it’s been since 1998.
In Plymouth, the Pemigewasset River has reached a record high of 5,540 cubic feet per second. One cubic foot is roughly the size of a basketball, so imagine over 5,500 basketballs worth of water rushing past a particular point each second. The previous high was 3,770 cubic feet per second in 1996. And the Lamprey River in Raymond also set a new record of 1,150 cubic feet per second, shattering its last record from 2004 of just 107 feet per second.
“This is a significant for New Hampshire,” said Diers, although he noted the state has fared better than its neighbor Vermont. He attributed that to “luck of the draw” based on how much rain the weather patterns have dropped on either state. He said New Hampshire also has the advantage of additional storage, given its lakes and flood control facilities.
But the flooding raises a few areas of concern for Diers, like the presence of fecal bacteria in the water, as sewers and septic systems are overflowing. He said that means cyanobacteria blooms are likely to return, with the introduction of excess nutrients into the water after the storm.
Cyanobacteria is a kind of bacteria that can cause algal blooms, which can pollute the water and can be toxic to humans and animals.
The flooding also makes it possible for bacteria to get into well water, and Diers recommended individuals get their well water tested to verify that it’s safe to drink.
While Monday’s hot weather will help evaporate some of the water relatively quickly, Diers said swimming is dangerous — there’s the concern about bacteria, how quickly some water is moving, and because there could be detritus in the water that’s hard to see.
Because the rainfall on Sunday comes after a week of heavy rain, the ground is already saturated and a smaller amount of rain than normal can cause flooding.
“The frustrating part of all of this is that this has been extremely hard to predict,” said Diers. “The system is so unsettled that we don’t know where in the state is going to get hit when.”
He said based on a meeting with the National Weather Service last week, he’s expecting these unpredictable conditions to last for another few weeks.