Northeast cleanup continues

For Keene, N.H., residents, the additional weekend rain was not something to be happy about.

BY HEATHER MOYER | KEENE, N.H. | October 17, 2005

"Nobody around here - not even the old-timers - had ever seen the water come up that high."

—Ken Avery

For Keene, N.H., residents, the additional weekend rain was not something to be happy about.

Standing outside his home, Larry Phillips looked at the piles of soggy belongings brought up from his basement.

"We had around four feet of water in the basement earlier this week," he said. "It gets even worse the farther down Church and Carpenter Streets you go."

Looking at the houses in Phillips' neighborhood, each one has piles of water-logged furniture and boxes sitting out front. Only days ago the streets were rivers when Beaver Brook left its banks and inundated the homes.

Phillips said he and his wife were evacuated from their home early Sunday morning, as were all their neighbors. Most do not have insurance, he said, and those that do are finding out that it will not cover all their losses.

"But we're just trying to get things cleaned out right now," Phillips explained, moving a soaked box. The biggest loss in the basement was the boiler, which was expensive to replace, he noted.

Then Phillips stopped to laugh. "My wife got her wish - all those collections and projects I had in the basement have all been cleaned out now."

Beyond Alstead, where the flooding caused the most residential destruction last weekend, the damage from additional flooding is sporadic. Communities like Hinsdale, Walpole, Acworth and Marlow all saw streets and bridges washed out - with Hinsdale and Marlow each seeing some residential damage.

On a rainy and dreary Friday afternoon in Hinsdale, Lindasy Parker was watching a construction crew replace a bridge. The town was split in half when the high water washed the bridge out. Two homes suffered damage as well. But Parker knows it could be worse.

"At most the bridge being out is an inconvenience to those who live on one side and work on the other," he said. "It's quite a drive around it, but it's not that bad. And anyway, they're saying the bridge should be done this weekend."

Parker knows the families who live in the damaged homes and said one home has close to $200,000 in damage. "Fortunately he has insurance," he noted. "But he did lose both his cars."

Disasters like last weekend's flooding are rare in southwestern New Hampshire. Parker said he knew of some flooding in the region back in the 1980s, but it was nothing like what happened last Sunday. "No, we don't get too many disasters up here - heck, we haven't even had a house fire here in Hinsdale in years," he laughed. "Maybe the power will go out once in a while or we'll have an ice storm, but this is new to us."

For the businesses in Hinsdale, the sooner the bridge is back in service, the better. At R.W.'s Place - a small restaurant along the main street - business has been slow this week. "We need to get our customers back," said a waitress who declined to be named.

"We're providing food for the National Guardsmen and the other workers as a way of saying thanks for rebuilding our town. The town's got to work together to get back on its feet."

Farther north in Marlow, N.H., police chief Ken Avery feels fortunate to have missed the worst of the flooding. While two homes did suffer severe damage, Avery said the worst damage seemed to be to nearby roads. Marlow is a challenge for residents to get into now with several of the main highways having washed out.

"That's a pain, but people are dealing with it," he said.

Considering how nerve-wracking the day of the floods was, Avery said it's amazing only two homes were damaged. He was up all night Saturday into Sunday, checking water levels and closely monitoring the dam upstream.

"The stream here swelled up and crossed the road, then it inundated those houses and their cars," Avery explained. "Nobody around here - not even the old-timers - had ever seen the water come up that high."

Avery and his fellow emergency workers evacuated all the residents early Sunday to the Town Hall instead of the normal evacuation site. "We would normally put everyone in the local school, but that would have been in the path of the water if the dam did break."

There were a few tense minutes when information about a dam break spread quickly on Sunday and downed communication lines made that alert hard to confirm. With phone lines only allowing calls to be made within the town and not out or in, Avery was finally able to get that information proven false after making several phone calls to residents who lived near the dam.

"I had a lady run down to the lake to see for herself if the dam did break," he laughed. "It turned out to be just fine."

For now, Avery is keeping ahead of the news on the washed out roads, checking in with the two families who suffered home damage and helping out some of his own family who are stranded in Alstead. "We're just trying to keep track of where everyone is."

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