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The Last Rains of A Very Wet July Cause Road Damage, Flooding In Western N.H.

Langdon roads July 30.jpg
Langdon Police Department
Several roads in Langdon were washed out following rains on Thursday, July 29. The town's police department urged caution to residents on July 30. Rain hit Sullivan County again on Sunday, August 1st.

Around 20 towns throughout western New Hampshire are dealing with washed-out roads, damaged bridges and flooding after rain hit the area over the weekend.

Jennifer Harper, the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management director, said recovery efforts have been difficult. She said her crews and the state’s department of transportation have been out helping affected towns.

“[Towns] don’t have a lot of staffing resources,” she said. “Everyone is short-staffed. I know a lot of the communities were having a hard time securing gravel or sand and they needed to do some temporary repairs,” she said.

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Harper said her department is starting the process to see if New Hampshire will meet a $2 million disaster threshold to ask for a presidential disaster declaration. This is a months-long process, from filing paperwork with the federal government, to Federal Emergency Management Agency validating numbers with towns.

Ultimately, if a disaster declaration is approved, FEMA would pay 75% of eligible expenses. Towns would be responsible for the other 25%.

She said Sullivan County experienced significant infrastructure damages over the weekend, and it can have cascading effects.

“Small businesses on roadways, we’ve seen a couple of things in the news lately about businesses being impacted because roads are impassable,” she said.

If uninsured or underinsured homeowners experienced damages, that can also present challenges, and put a financial burden on homeowners.

July was one of the wettest months on record, with some parts of the state getting about a foot and a half of rain.

That meant when this past weekend’s rain fell — the town of Unity got about 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine
— there was nowhere for the water to go.

“It gets to a certain point where it can’t hold anymore, just as a sponge would,” said Andrew Pohl, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in an interview following the heavy rains that hit Cheshire County last month.

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

Daniela is an editor in NHPR's newsroom. She also leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? You can email her at dallee@nhpr.org.

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