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24 people evacuated after flash flooding in Lebanon

Lebanon firefighter evacuate residents  of the Rivermere housing complex across Slayton Hill Rd. in Lebanon on Tuesday after heavy rains flooded the road and housing complex.
Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Lebanon firefighter evacuate residents  of the Rivermere housing complex across Slayton Hill Rd. in Lebanon on Tuesday after heavy rains flooded the road and housing complex. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Flash flooding hammered Lebanon for a second straight day yesterday, forcing Lebanon firefighters to evacuate 24 people from the newly opened Rivermere affordable housing complex when a brook overflowed and destroyed a nearby portion of Slayton Hill Road.

Elsewhere in the city, a stretch of Bank Street was damaged, streets in West Lebanon were closed by flooding and much of the Staples shopping plaza along Route 12A also was briefly covered by water as more than 2 inches of rain fell between 3 and 4 p.m.

“There are numerous roads which are partially and/or completely impassible,” Lebanon fire Chief Chris Christopoulos said in a statement last night. “Residents are urged to use extreme caution when traveling on all city and state roads.”

The brook in central Lebanon tore down the steep Slayton Hill Road and threatened the Rivermere building. Worried that additional storms could threaten the housing complex near the Mascoma River, firefighters ordered residents to leave about 4 p.m. One by one, the evacuees gripped a rope spanning Slayton Hill Road as firefighters helped them wade through mud, debris and several inches of rapidly running water to cross to Dulac Street.

Nineteen of the residents were taken to an emergency center at Lebanon High School, which was to remain open all night for those and other residents in need of a dry place. Five other Rivermere residents made arrangements to stay with friends and family, Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Libbey said.

No one was injured, and the extent of damage to the Rivermere complex was unclear, Libbey said. The evacuation was triggered by fears that any additional rain could force more dramatic action last night.

“We don’t know what the other cells are going to do tonight,” Libbey said.

A crowd gathered on a bridge over the Mascoma River late yesterday afternoon, watching the rescue at Rivermere.

Among them was Heather Hawes, who watched helplessly as her 13-year-old daughter Katie Shambo, who had been home alone, was guided across the rescue rope by firefighters.

“I can’t get to you,” Hawes told Katie when the girl called her in a panic.

“It’s a little scary,” Hawes said.

Widespread damage

In response to Lebanon’s woes, Gov. Maggie Hassan opened a state emergency operations center. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide any assistance needed for responding to this flooding to the affected Upper Valley communities,” Hassan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Maple and Tracy streets in West Lebanon were briefly closed in the late afternoon after a nearby brook flooded.

And near downtown Lebanon, Forest and Kimball streets were heavily damaged, and a chunk of Bank Street and its sidewalk east of the heart of the city also had collapsed onto what appeared to be a stormwater drainage pipe, breaking it to pieces. Curious passers-by snapped pictures with their phones and pulled over to the side of the road to check out the damage.

Bank Street resident Lucy McLellan said she can’t remember the neighborhood ever suffering that sort of storm damage before.

“I’m very shocked,” said McLellan. “I’m kind of numb, actually.”

‘Horrible timing’

The rescue in Lebanon at Rivermere yesterday came after firefighters on Monday night evacuated seven apartments in the complex after the brook initially slammed into the back of the building. Firefighters monitored the building overnight, and workers scrambled to divert the runaway brook yesterday afternoon.

The flooding at Rivermere could not have come at a worse time, said Jennie Gibson, property manager of the Rivermere apartments developed by the Twin Pines Housing Trust, which celebrated the 21-unit apartment complex’s opening at a ribbon-cutting last week.

“It’s horrible timing,” said Gibson. “Everybody was just getting settled.”

On Monday night, water rushing off Slayton Hill Road pushed silt and dirt up against the edge of the building, and residents lost some personal belongings in the course of the flooding, Christopoulos said.

“It’s going to be a fair dollar amount,” Christopoulos said, who added that he was waiting on estimates for the damage.

Public Works Director Mike Lavalla said that several culverts on Slayton Hill Road were jammed up during the Monday storm, due to the volume of precipitation and the debris stuck in the inlets.

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