Torrential rains wash out Route 11, a number of Andover roads

By Shawn Cunningham
©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

A clickable photo gallery is below the article. Thanks to our photo contributors: Mark Burbela, Stacie Goodman Hill, Melissa Ryan and Marc Thomas.

The skies opened up over Chester on Monday, and stayed that way, warranting the largest flood response since Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. Chester Fire, Police and Ambulance were assisted by units from Londonderry, Springfield, Windham and the water rescue unit from Hartford. By 4:30 pm, the Middle Branch of the Williams River had reached the bottom of the bridge at Routes 11 and 103 and water was pouring across the parking lot at the Sunoco station.

Down stream from the gas station, the river had jumped its banks and poured across the softball field and American Legion parking lot, dumping into the field that has been proposed as a fairground for Chester. At Church Street, Chester firefighters were routing traffic away from Route 11 where a host of problems were being worked including a water rescue of a woman whose house was surrounded by the river.

“This is an awful thing,” said Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson, “but it proves why we need training for things that don’t seem to happen often, but they happen. Until three weeks ago, there was not a single (water rescue) rope or life jacket in the department. Today every firefighter had a life jacket.” The water rescue team from Hartford assisted with extracting the woman.

Wilson also said that every side road along Route 11 West sustained some damage, particularly severe on Potash Brook, Fenton and Kingsbury roads. One house on Kingsbury sustained damage resulting in a large portion of it collapsing into the river. Wilson also cut power to the area around the junction of Route 11 and Andover Road where there were leaking propane tanks. According to Wilson, the Springfield Fire Department was able to reach them and shut them off. Route 11 was blocked off from about 4 to 8 p.m.

Roads to Andover were difficult to  impassable tonight and it was reported that there was substantial damage there.

By 8:30, the firefighters were regrouping at the town garage and Wilson was looking at the clouds. “There’s supposed to be another (weather) cell through tonight,” said the chief, “so I’m holding these resources here for a while, but I’m particularly concerned about the town road crews out there tonight, so some of us will be here all night.” Wilson asked that residents be smart about traveling and if possible stay home tonight.

Referring to the weather extremes of the past few years Wilson noted, “We’re in a different place now.”

Water rescue equipment and training have been high on the fire department’s priority list since Irene. In April, Wilson requested funds to buy equipment that would allow most firefighters to be trained in water rescue from the Chester Select Board, but the board asked the department to raise a large portion of the money privately. “We have a lot of the equipment we need to begin water rescue training in September, but we are still fundraising for it,” said Wilson. Contributions can be sent to the Yosemite Engine Company, P.O. Box 631, Chester.


UPDATE: Here’s the complete list of those who responded yesterday according to the Chester Fire Department: Hartford rescue, Springfield Fire, Proctorsville Fire, Rockingham Fire, Weston Fire, Londonderry, American Red Cross, CERT team, Chester Ambulance, and Springfield Dispatch.

The Telegraph will have more about the storm and its after-effects on Tuesday. In the meantime, here are photos from a number of our readers plus our own Shawn Cunningham that document the rains and floods of today, Monday, July 28.


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  1. Tom Hildreth says:

    Thank you for the good coverage, Shawn. I appreciate the well-captioned photos.

  2. Kathy says:

    I hope everyone is doing OK despite being so severely inundated. Has 11 W reopened at Balch Road or Lovers Lane?