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As NH assesses local flood damage, emergency crews also help with recovery in Vermont

Forest Lake Dam in Winchester sustained some damage in the recent storms.
Olivia Richardson
/
NHPR
Forest Lake Dam in Winchester sustained some damage in the recent storms.

Emergency crews from New Hampshire are helping out in Vermont following the devastating floods that swept through the region earlier this week.

The New Hampshire National Guard deployed two Black Hawk helicopters to help with ongoing recovery efforts Tuesday morning, and multiple local fire departments have sent swift water rescue crews.

Manchester's Fire Department said it sent eight firefighters and three boats, along with other support vehicles to Montpelier, Vermont’s state capital, where they made approximately 20 rescues overnight Tuesday.

Manchester Fire Chief Ryan Cashin said urban flooding poses risks to responders and equipment.

“You are having flooding in areas sometimes other than rivers, and those can be very hazardous because you don’t know what’s under there,” he said. “On city streets, you might have to deal with manhole covers that have popped up or other trash and debris.”

Cashin said his team will stay in the region for as long as requested.

While flooding was far more extensive this week in Vermont, state agencies across New Hampshire are also continuing to respond to the fallout here.

Gov. Chris Sununu spent Tuesday surveying storm damage across the state, including a stop at Forest Lake Dam in Winchester, where the spillway gave way. Water poured onto nearby roads and eroded a surrounding riverbank.

The Forest Lake Dam is privately operated by the Forest Lake Association. They said they already planned to repair the structure before the storm.

Sununu said he's now looking at using some of New Hampshire's federal pandemic relief aid to help fix this and other dams.

He said the state already has money available to fix culverts and roads damaged from flooding. But he's also asking the federal government for more help.

As of Tuesday evening, the governor's office said the state had not yet submitted a formal request for a major disaster declaration to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but they were working with local partners to gather the information needed to do so. Earlier in the day, President Biden issued a federal disaster declaration for Vermont, where the flood damage has been considerably more severe.

Sununu said state and local officials will continue to monitor the potential for more flooding in the days ahead.

"We're keeping an eye on it," Sununu said in Winchester. "There's some, like this spillway here, have given way, there's been a couple of small breaches here and there — but nothing as catastrophic as we've seen in the past, thank goodness."

 Gov. Chris Sununu visited Forest Lake Dam to inspect the storm damage
Olivia Richardson
/
NHPR
Gov. Chris Sununu visited Forest Lake Dam to inspect the storm damage Tuesday afternoon.

Vanessa Palange, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said they got about seven requests for additional support overnight Monday and into Tuesday.

“We've been getting a lot of public works requests, as you can imagine, with some of these towns that are seeing road closures, getting things like barriers, sandbags, certain things, signs, road signs,” she said.

Palange said the agency has three crews on the ground visiting affected communities, and is continuing to make phone calls to local officials.

She said damage is widespread throughout the state. But while the agency has been fielding some requests, some towns have been managing damage on their own.

In Swanzey, Fire Chief William Gould said the Department of Public Works is working on making damaged roads accessible, at least for emergency access. He said some local residents were “cut off” due to the road closures, though he could not confirm exactly how many people were affected. He said it’s not clear how long it might take to repair the damaged roads.

Farther north, crews in Canaan are also working to clean up damage to local roads. Ryan Porter, the town’s police chief, said one route — South Road — sustained long-term damage. He said flooding caused issues with culverts, which help with water drainage.

“Once the culverts got compromised and filled up with rocks and debris, it caused the water to kind of shed out across the top of the road, which ended up washing out some of the dirt roads that we have in town,” Porter said.

Palange, with the state emergency management agency, said residents in affected communities should wait for flood waters to subside before starting to clean up. But if you absolutely must start, she said, it’s important to wear personal protective equipment.

“Make sure that you are not putting yourself in danger if there's live wires, if there are trees, debris that could float down toward you,” she said.

More tips on how to stay safe during floods or other extreme weather events are available at ReadyNH.gov.


Related coverage:

NH is getting warmer and wetter, says new statewide climate assessment

Dartmouth research forecasts increase in extreme precipitation in the Northeast

Updated: July 11, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
This story was updated with additional comments from Gov. Chris Sununu.
Adriana (she/they) was a news intern in the summer of 2023, reporting on environment, energy and climate news as part of By Degrees. They graduated from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in June 2023.
Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.
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