NH City Making Progress in Recovery From Flash Flooding | NECN

NH City Making Progress in Recovery From Flash Flooding



    Lebanon suffered $6.5m in damage to public infrastructure from early-July storms (Published Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014)

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Lebanon, N.H.) - "This was a good-looking lawn," sighed Lebanon, N.H. homeowner Don Bourgeois, looking at the silt and pebbles that sit where green grass used to.

    Bourgeois's lawn and part of his driveway have looked pretty pitiful since early this month, when flash flooding July 2 tore apart Slayton Hill Road in Lebanon. A torrent of water, worsened, Bourgeois said, by the breaking of a water main, sent earth, debris, and water gushing downhill. "I'm going to be in excess of $10-12,000 in damage," Bourgeois told New England Cable News Wednesday.

    Bourgeois said he has cleaned up the two-foot piles of junk that landed on his property. Farther down Dulac Street, the city is still clearing away silt and rocks tossed around at the worst of the crisis.

    Bourgeois told NECN he blames this whole mess on a road re-design a decade ago, which he claims never accounted for the runoff potential here. Lebanon has seen about 14 inches of rain since June 1. "These culverts were under-sized in the first place," the 20-year resident said.

    Lebanon's emergency management director, Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos, said the city expects to start collecting bids for the Slayton Hill Road repair project in about two months. "It's a pretty complicated process," Christopoulos said. "It's going to take time."

    Christopoulos promised the city is very mindful of the need to rebuild roads and their underpinnings in ways that make them stronger, preparing for the potential for more major storms. "We want to make sure we restore the road back to where it needs to be," he said. "And that means that it will be better than it was before we started."

    Lebanon estimated it suffered $6.5-million in damage to public infrastructure, slightly more than half of that along Slayton Hill Road. Temporary fixes have been made on Slayton Hill Road, but crude ones. The road is passable again, and homeowners have access to their driveways. They also have electricity and temporary water supplies, but permanent fixes will take months, Christopoulos said.

    Until then, Christopoulos acknowledged there are concerns about how well damaged roads will hold up. All told, 57 roads were impacted by storm damage and have had varying levels of repairs, Christopoulos noted. "If we had another catastrophic rain event, then we could have big failures," he warned. "So we're clearing culverts and making some temporary repairs in those areas."

    Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., has asked President Obama to declare Cheshire, Grafton, and Sullivan Counties a major disaster zone. That would help speed federal money to communities including Lebanon for repairs to public property.

    As for Don Bourgeois, who said he knows he can't get any cash for fixes to his private land, he is now looking into planting a new yard. The homeowner hopes it will survive whatever weather comes its way. "It all comes down to the almighty dollar," he said.

    Chief Christopoulos suggested homeowners visit this FEMA website to help them prepare for severe weather events. It provides advice on a host of topics, such as what items families may want to stock up on in case they experience a lengthy power outage.

    Christopoulos also said the city wants to gather feedback from residents on how Lebanon responded to the emergency in early July. A forum asking citizens for their thoughts on how the city handled communications and other issues that arose took place Wednesday evening. People who could not attend can provide input through this site, Christopoulos said.