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Flooding Damages Roads, Houses In Southwestern N.H.

Rivers, brooks and streams swelled throughout the Monadnock Region as heavy rains caused flooding and washed out roads.

The town of Swanzey received about 5 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

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Swanzey’s fire chief, Bill Gould, says culverts in town were overwhelmed by the runoff water.

“The water is actually carving out its own route,” he said. “You get that force of the water from the heavy rain we got the other night.”

Gould and his team evacuated some residents on Causeway Road late Sunday night, after four or five feet of water surrounded a house. By mid-afternoon on Monday, some emergency responders were helping people whose basements had flooded.

Christian Hill Road in Swanzey was washed out after heavy rains over July 17 and 18
Swanzey Fire Department
Christian Hill Road in Swanzey was washed out after heavy rains over July 17 and 18

Scientists say climate change is driving more of this volatile weather and an overall increase in precipitation in the Northeast.

The consistent rains in July follow one of the driest and hottest Junes on record in New Hampshire. Much of the state, including parts of Cheshire County, were abnormally dry or in a moderate drought.

“When we’re in a drought like that, [the ground] can absorb quite a bit of water,” said Andrew Pohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

As more rain started to fall in the first half of July, Pohl said, the ground soaked up a lot of moisture.

“It gets to a certain point where it can’t hold anymore, just as a sponge would” and it runs off. That’s compounded by the topography in the southwestern part of the state. Water runs down hills and mountains into valleys.

“Now that three inches of water that fell becomes two feet of running water, and that’s where the problems come into play,” Pohl said.

Alan Dunham, from the Southern New England National Weather Service said that most of the streams in Massachusetts and Connecticut are either well above normal or at near record levels.

The town of Jaffrey got 7.63 inches of rain. Town manager Jon Frederick said that while roads are reopened, two dozen were damaged to some degree.

“We anticipate that it’s going to be at least a few weeks to get everything repaired from the damage we have seen,” Frederick said.

Frederick said the town used about $50,000 worth of stones to restore some gravel roads and paved roads that were compromised.

The town’s public works department will spend the next few weeks assessing damages.

This story includes reporting from New England Public Media's Heather Brandon, shared through the New England News Collaborative.

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