On Irene Anniversary, streets flood in WRJ
By Eric Francis
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – Exactly two years after Tropical Storm Irene inundated sections of White River Junction there was an eerie flashback Wednesday night as a torrential thunderstorm and an accompanying water main break sent several streets under water.
Drivers found themselves up to the bottoms of their car's doors in water in several spots ranging from Gates Street behind the large telephone company building to the railroad underpass on Maple Street right next to the Hartford Town Hall where two cars that had been headed in opposite directions found themselves stalled about 9:30 p.m.
Supervising the efforts of two tow trucks that had been called in to haul the stranded drivers to safety, Hartford Police Sgt. Connie Kelley said she was nearly caught up by the freak storm herself.
“I came down the hill on Route 5 by the former LISTEN Center/25,000 Gifts building and hit basically like a lake in the road and the water came up over my hood,” Sgt. Kelley recalled.
Crews later determined that a water main had given way near the intersection of Routes 4 and 5 sending a wave of water that actually pushed a television set that had been sitting in front of the former LISTEN building clear down the hill to the intersection in front of the Bugbee Senior Center.
“This is unprecedented,” noted Hotel Coolidge owner David Briggs shortly after 10 p.m. as he waved a flashlight across the completely flooded parking lot behind the Gates Briggs Building. The building houses the Briggs Opera House and several downtown businesses including Revolution and the popular Tuckerbox coffee shop.
For a time much of Currier Street, which runs behind the Hotel Coolidge, was flooded right up to the curbs, as were stretches of nearby Gates Street and Church Street in front of St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
Briggs said the parking lots in the downtown have never flooded like this in previous years but he said this is the second time they've done so this summer. “Something has changed,” he said, pointing out that the water in the basements of the downtown block appeared to be coming in from, rather than going out through, the storm drain system.