Flood waters rip through region

  • Heavy rains washed out one side of Old Town Farm Road in Peterborough on Sunday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heavy rains washed out one side of Old Town Farm Road in Peterborough on Sunday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heavy rains washed out one side of Old Town Farm Road in Peterborough on Sunday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heavy rains washed out one side of Old Town Farm Road in Peterborough on Sunday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Heavy rains washed out one side of Old Town Farm Road in Peterborough on Sunday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Contoocook River roars over Noone Falls in Peterborough Monday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The water level was high on the Contoocook River in Bennington after recent storms hit the Monadnock region. Photos by Gary Klar—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/19/2021 3:24:37 PM

Several roads in Jaffrey and Peterborough remained partially closed into Monday, as road crews attempted to deal with storm damage, flooding, and major washouts from torrential rains on Saturday night into Sunday.

Lee and Harvey Sawyer, who measure precipitation as part of weather monitoring for the National Weather Service, reported the storm started out strong on Saturday night. In the first two hours, the storm dumped nearly three inches on Jaffrey; overnight, almost four more inches fell, and after Sunday’s precipitation, the rain totaled 7.63 inches over the weekend.

Harvey Sawyer, owner of Silver Ranch Airpark, said the storm was “of epic proportions.”

“In my memory, I’ve never seen so much water all at once,” Sawyer said. “We have a lake where we usually have a pond.”

On Monday morning, the Jaffrey Highway Department was still responding to reports of flooding and damage, according to Jaffrey Town Manager Jon Frederick.

Culverts on Letourneau Drive were damaged, and the town was still working Monday to put in an emergency replacement. The road was open only to passenger vehicles and neighborhood traffic on Monday.

The town was able to open most damaged roads to at least one lane of traffic before nightfall on Sunday, and were continuing to work on damaged roads Monday. Sawtelle Road remained closed on Monday due to a failed culvert and damaged roadway. All other town roads are open to vehicle traffic.

In Peterborough, there were major washouts and damage on Windy Row, Prospect Street, Old Jaffrey Road and Old Town Farm Road, according to Fire Chief Ed Walker.

Old Jaffrey Road and Old Town Farm Road had to be closed completely on Sunday. As of Monday, Old Jaffrey Road was open for a single lane of traffic after an emergency repair, and Old Town Farm Road is only open to residential traffic.

“About 200 feet of Old Town Farm Road washed away completely,” Walker said. “The main issue with that road is it is a dead-end road. There is no other way out. With Old Jaffrey Road, while it’s inconvenient, you can drive around and come at it another way.”

Chip Mangini, a resident at 119 Old Jaffrey Road, said on Sunday, his backyard was under a huge amount of water, at least six to eight feet, and the flood waters came to within a few feet of his back door. On Monday, the waters had receded, but Mangini said he’s never seen flooding that bad.

“I have never seen this before, ever,” Mangini said. “I’ve lived here for five years, and we’ve never had this problem.”

Mangini said he was able to access his house, but the road has been blocked periodically for his neighbors up the hill as highway crews worked to repair washouts on the road on Sunday and Monday.

The rising waters also came over the roadway in several spots throughout the southern portion of Peterborough, including on Old Street Road, Old Greenfield Road and Summer Street.

John Kaufhold, owner of Peterborough Marble and Granite Works on Concord Street, which abuts the Contoocook River, said the river swelled past its banks, and flooded the back yard of the Granite Works, as it often does during heavy rains.

“The backyard filled in, as we like to say,” Kaufhold said. “There wasn’t too much damage. Luckily, all our merchandise is rocks and are too heavy to wash away, but the river dragged in silt and branches, so there was a little cleanup we had to do.”

While Kaufhold said the river flooding isn’t all that unusual, it is during this time of year. Usually, waters only get this high after a spring snowmelt, or during the fall, when New Hampshire can see large storms and remnants of hurricanes.

“For July, it’s very rare,” Kaufhold said. “I don’t think I’ve seen it in my 60 years here. Not so much all at once.”

Walker said notably, some areas in the northern part of town that usually see flooding during unusually heavy rain remained above water.

“It appeared the heaviest rain fell in the southern part of town,” Walker said.

The Peterborough Fire Department responded to four requests for assistance with flooding in basements, and a few minor reports of tree damage, but Walker said the road washouts were the majority of the reported damage.

In Bennington, flooding crossed North Bennington Road from the iron bridge to the town line, according to Fire Chief David Foster, but the Contoocook didn’t crest the banks in town.

Foster said the road flooding was compounded by already high waters lingering from the last large storm, which in combination with Saturday and Sunday’s rain, raised the water level by as much as six to 10 inches.

North Bennington Road was the only road that faced major flooding, Foster said, and the Fire Department received about a half dozen reports of trees on wires, but there was only minor damage.

“Bennington fared pretty well,” Foster said.

Other towns saw little to no damage or flooding.

New Ipswich, which was hit hard by strong winds and thunderstorms on June 30, causing significant damage across town, was spared any more major damage during this weekend’s storm, according to Fire Chief Meredith Lund.

The storm did disrupt Hillfest, a major Christian music festival which was being held in New Ipswich on Saturday. After a 2020 cancellation due to COVID-19, the festival returned this year, but had to be ended early due to torrential rain and lightning. However, the storm did not close any roads or cause major damage to trees, Lund said.

Rindge, which was also hit hard by the June 30 storm, also saw much less damage this time around than some of its neighbors, according to Director of Life and Safety and Fire Chief Rickard Donovan.

“We have some washouts on our gravel roads, but Rindge, this time, didn’t seem to have a big bullseye on its forehead,” Donovan said. “Luckily, we didn’t get hit like that again.

In Rindge, Ingalls Road, which is a Class VI road, was closed Monday and was expected to be for the rest of the day, at a minimum, Donovan said. The road has very little traffic, Donovan said, and has only a few homes.

Water also went over Abel Road, but there were few flooding reports, Donovan said.

In Antrim, there were also no significant road issues, with only some reported erosion on dirt roads, which remained passable, said Antrim Fire Chief Marshall Gale. However, there were some areas of town that still saw flooding, including Tenney Farm, which reported flooding to its lower fields.

Eric Tenney, who owns the land, and whose daughter Crista Salamy now runs the farm, said the fields behind the stand, which grows tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and corn are under water.

“I couldn’t believe how fast it came,” Tenney said. “In two or three hours, the field was totally flooded.”

“We’ve got to wait and see, and keep our fingers crossed,” Salamy said. “Because we can’t even get out there right now. It’s a waiting game, and not a good waiting game.”

Salamy said the water and current could have damaged crops, and also bring in pests which can hurt the plants even after the water ebbs. She said if a large portion are damaged, it would be “devastating” to the farm, as it is only weeks before many of the plants would be harvested, and some were already being picked.

Tenney said the fields are still under water, in some places as two or three feet, and in some of their fallow fields, as high as five feet.

“It’s already dropped about a foot,” Tenney said.

Tenney said even the crops under water may yet pull through.

“I’ve been here for 50 years, and I’ve been through a lot of floods. I’ve seen it happen with corn where the water comes up, the water goes down, and the corn is fine. I’ve never been through it with tomatoes,” Tenney said. “We probably won’t know for two or three days.”

The Contoocook River has crested in Antrim, but Gale said the waters are expected to recede within the next few days.


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