Weekend rains return, soak region repeatedly
by Jack Deming
Sep 05, 2013 | 4861 views | 0 0 comments | 108 108 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A pickup truck crashed into the door of Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington during Monday’s heavy rainstorm.
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WILMINGTON- An isolated flash-rainstorm soaked Wilmington on Sunday, creating unease for business owners, as well as washouts on the west and east sides of town. While the intense sheets of rain and subsequent runoff from the surrounding hills caused the Deerfield River to rise, it did not breach its banks, sparing much of the town from flooding.

On the east side of town, water that overran its culverts under Route 9 caused some nerve-racking moments for Wahoo’s Eatery owner Adam Grinold, as the restaurant’s lawn turned into a river, and water covered the parking lot. “I knew we probably weren’t looking at a flooding situation or an Irene-type situation, but it’s still unnerving,” said Grinold. “I’m not alone. Everyone walks around with a little post-traumatic stress in their pocket and when it rains heavy, we all start to twitch. Something this significant this fast can happen again.”

For Vermont Bowl Company owner John McLeod it was another story. Two years after Irene caused nearly $40,000 in damage to his business, he was left once again to dry out his carpets and fix his driveway. McLeod and his business partner Tommy Fox said that the weekend storm caused nearly the same amount of flooding to the store and factory that Irene did, and attributed it to the culverts’ inability to keep up with runoff water on both sides of their parking lot.

Between Vermont Bowl Company and its neighbor Gallery Wright is a small brook that runs under Route 9 to the Deerfield River. When the brook breached its banks, a culvert located on the east side of the parking lot could not keep up with the flooding and sent water running in front of the building. A culvert on the west end of the parking lot is too small as well, according to McLeod, and when overwhelmed, pushes water into the west end of the building. McLeod said damages this time will end up about half that of Irene, but the recent flooding further exacerbates the need for new, larger culverts to be installed, especially with Green Mountain Power planning a parking lot expansion at their facility behind his.

McLeod has gotten assurance from the operations director of the state’s transportation agency that a team is being assembled to tackle the problem. McLeod also asked Sen. Bob Hartwell to help him urge action on getting larger culverts for that part of Route 9. Hartwell stopped by Vermont Bowl Company this morning to discuss the issue with McLeod and to get a firsthand look at the situation. Meanwhile McLeod and Fox are weighing options for being prepared for future events, such as lowering the driveway. “The most damnable bit about it is it might not happen in another 40 years, and it could happen next week.”

According to town manager Scott Murphy, response to the storm was mainly focused on isolated incidents during which road crews were dispatched to unplug individual culverts or drop inlets, while police directed traffic at washout sites. Monday morning, a Dodge pickup truck hydroplaned, crashing into Bartleby’s Books at a 45-degree angle, knocking off one of the truck’s front tires. According to Bartleby’s owner Phil Taylor, the front wall of the building had been designed to withstand floodwaters, and if the walls were thinner, the truck would have found its way inside.

Data collected by John Lazelle, chief operator of Wilmington’s wastewater treatment plant, showed a staggering amount of rain falling between 3 and 3:30 pm. A total of 1.71 inches fell in that half-hour, with the rain starting to tail off between 3:30 and 4 pm when 0.62 inches fell. But Mother Nature wasn’t done yet, coming back from 4 to 5 pm with another 1.45 inches. To compare, during the entire course of August 28, 2011, the day Irene swept into town, at no point did one hour’s rainfall total exceed 0.66 inches.
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