Stevenson Dam in Conn. Makes Big Difference in Who Floods, Who Doesn't | NECN

Stevenson Dam in Conn. Makes Big Difference in Who Floods, Who Doesn't

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As Andrea moves into New England, flooding is a concern along rivers and streams (Published Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014)

    (NECN: Brian Burnell, Stevenson, Conn.) - As Andrea moves into New England, flooding becomes a concern along rivers and streams. In Connecticut, one dam makes a big difference when it comes to who floods and who doesn't.  

    River flooding in this part of Connecticut depends a lot on whether these spillways on this dam are open or closed and whether you live above the dam or below it.

    This is what it looks and sounds like as tons of water pours through.  This was March, two years ago, after a winter with a lot of snow.  Snowmelt combined with heavy rain causing flooding.  Now as Andrea moves in behind a storm that's already dumping substantial rain, the waters are beginning to rise again.  

    Jan Gregory has lived along the Pomperaug River in Southbury, above the Stevenson Dam, for 25 years.  She's not too concerned right now.

    "The river's only at 3.2 right now and even if we get 4 inches of rain that's only 7.2 because there's no ice melt, there's no snow pack up above that's going to contribute to this so minor flood stage is 9 feet.  I don't think we're going to get there," she says.

    Obviously Jan knows the river.  But the dam?  Not so much.

    "I don't understand what the mechanics are of when they open the dam versus when they leave it closed but if they open the dam then the people below will be the ones who get flooded.”

    People like Dave Zitnay are the ones who would get flooded.  He lives on the Housatonic River in Derby, below the dam.  Taking boats out of the water are among the precautions he and his neighbors in the riverfront neighborhood have taken.

    "Put a few extra lines on the docks and tied them up to trees and walls to be ready for what may come.  And what may come is a knock at the door, early in the morning, telling you there's flooding.  More than once we've been awakened and told that our house is an island and we might want to go outside for a while."

    Dave believes if the dam were opened sooner to allow less water to build up behind it while he might have a small flood for a long while he would not have a big flood for short time that does a lot more damage.  But, he says, the power company that controls the dam is focused on producing electricity.  Not flood control.  As for Andrea...

    "I'm not overly concerned because we've been through it."

    People who live along the rivers know this is just the start of the tropical storm and hurricane season.