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Flooding leaves torn roads behind in Lebanon

  • Kevin McNamara works to fill in a washed out road, Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Lebanon, N.H. Heavy rains caused flash flooding in the region.  New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire on Wednesday after flash-flooding left a number of washed out roads in the state. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Kevin McNamara works to fill in a washed out road, Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Lebanon, N.H. Heavy rains caused flash flooding in the region. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire on Wednesday after flash-flooding left a number of washed out roads in the state. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Kevin McNamara works to fill in a washed out road, Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Lebanon, N.H. Heavy rains caused flash flooding in the region.  New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire on Wednesday after flash-flooding left a number of washed out roads in the state. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Shawn Mason uses a shovel to clear rocks and other debris from his driveway on Shaw Street in Lebanon, NH while his son Patrick, 12, left, and friend Ben Tichenor, 11, play tetherball on July 2, 2013. Tuesday afternoon's storm brought a river of water and rocks into his backyard. <br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Public Works and utility crews hauled tons of dirt and sawed off trees still clinging to power lines on a washed-out Slayton Hill Road in Lebanon yesterday in what is sure to be a long, citywide cleanup process.

“It’s incredible to see the power of nature,” Lebanon fire Chief Chris Christopoulos said yesterday of the nearly 2 inches of rainfall that drenched the city in a 45-minute period late Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Maggie Hassan toured some of Lebanon’s worst-hit areas with the fire chief, peering into muddy apartments at Rivermere and gazing up at the pile of sand and gravel that had accumulated at the intersection of Slayton Hill Road and Dulac Street. She said that the city bore the brunt of an estimated $2 million or more in statewide storm damage.

Up in the distance, Slayton Hill Road resembled a cratered landscape from a post-apocalyptic film. Hassan called the damage “devastating.”

“There are also great signs of the resilience of Granite Staters,” said Hassan, who declared a state of emergency yesterday about 6 a.m.

Dozens of roads were damaged throughout the city in Tuesday’s flooding, including major thoroughfares such as Route 120, which was closed for much of yesterday but expected to be reopened late in the evening. Lebanon officials said most Fourth of July activities will proceed as planned, but that tonight’s fireworks display had to be postponed.

Earlier in the day, John Balch walked with his wife and two kids down what was left of Slayton Hill Road, where they have lived for 18 years. Balch, a plumber, said that he has always felt there was poor drainage along the road.

He said that when the road was rebuilt about 10 years ago, work crews at the time told him that they needed to dig the ditches on the side of the road 7- or 8-feet deep to provide proper drainage.

“And they didn’t, and the water has never run down the ditches,” Balch said. “It never has. It has always run down the road, and here we are.”

Public Works Director Mike Lavalla said his department has always been aware of a drainage issue on Slayton Hill Road, but added that, given the nature of the watershed in the area, “It’s just a very wet area.”

Lavalla said the clogging of culverts was the main culprit in the Slayton Hill Road wash-out.

“I think the main issue that contributed to it is just all the rain that we’ve had this spring and early summer,” he said. “Everything is just overly saturated, and anything that fell just immediately ran off. It couldn’t absorb anymore.”

Over on Forest Avenue, Clare and Jim Seidensticker, who have lived there for 35 years, did their best to manage the flooding on their own terms.

Jim Seidensticker had begun heaping mud and rocks that were washed up onto his lawn into a wheelbarrow, transferring the material into a 4-foot crevasse that had formed in the lawn beside his house where the stone bulkhead there collapsed. A curious house cat, belonging to a neighbor, gingerly stepped across the upheaved rocks and earth.

Asked to share his plan for restoring his property, Seidensticker answered, “I don’t have a clue.

“What I’m going to do now is clean some of this area up,” he said, both looking and sounding exasperated.

Across the street, Richard Hardy, who has lived in Lebanon for 25 years, described the scene that unfolded when the late-afternoon downpour created a small river that curved across his property.

“At the end of our driveway, it looked like there were a couple of firehoses going off,” Hardy said.

The water rushed up to the concrete foundation of Hardy’s basement, just inches away from breaching his cellar door.

“If it had kept up for another 15 minutes, we would have just gotten flooded out,” he said. “But fortunately it peaked and stopped.”

Don Collins, a longtime friend of Hardy’s, was coordinating two workers who were shoveling rocky mud into wheelbarrows in Hardy’s washed-out driveway.

Collins, who runs a construction company, said he only does the sort of work he was doing yesterday for close friends in an emergency. But he still found time to rib his buddy, asking, “So, do you want us to put wings on your car so you can fly out of here?”

Christopoulos said that Slayton Hill Road was the “most impacted” area of the city in terms of damage, but he couldn’t say when crews might be able to get to work there.

“We don’t have the resources to really attack Slayton Hill right at this time, and it’s up to when we get (engineering figures) and drawings back and when we can start the process to do it right,” he said.

Many residents on Slayton Hill Road were without power or water last night, but Christopoulos said that temporary power and water service is likely to be set up at some point.

Earlier in the day, Hassan said that she had seen more than $2 million in damage while touring western
New Hampshire, much of it in Lebanon.

“Before yesterday afternoon, we were close to the federal threshold (for emergency aid), which is $2 million,”
Hassan said. “We think we’re over that at this point, but again, until we get the exact numbers, we don’t know for sure.”

Christopoulos, like other city officials, would not offer any cost estimates yesterday, but indicated that Hassan’s number likely was accurate.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem, unfortunately, hitting that $2 million threshold,” he said.

The flooding means that the Fourth of July celebration will be delayed.

“Storrs Hill, our fireworks launch and prime viewing site, sustained major damage during the storms,” the city said in an emailed alert to residents.

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