Cleanup begins after massive rains wallop region Reports from Londonderry, Weston, Chester and Andover

By Cynthia Prairie and Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The comparisons to Tropical Storm Irene of August 2011 began rolling in over the weekend as the National Weather Service rolled out its rain estimates.

Mike O'Neil of M&M Excavating helped dig out the Ludlow Marketplace from flooding this morning. Photo by Mike O'Neil.

Mike O’Neil of M&M Excavating helped dig out the Ludlow Marketplace from flooding on Tuesday morning. Photo by Mike O’Neil.

By Monday night, at the end of the storm that dropped as much as 9 inches of rain in some parts of south-central Vermont, it proved to be more devastating than Irene for some of our towns – Londonderry, Weston and especially Ludlow.

It was less so for others. Early in the storm Chester was remarkably untouched, but by late afternoon the rain caught up with the town’s roads, especially the many dirt roads outside of the downtown.

But despite individual instances of homes flooding and roadway disruptions, Chester fared well by comparison and, while power remained on for most residents, the town suffered a water main break that shut off most of the water downtown for hours and resulted in a “boil water order” that was lifted on Thursday morning.


Both the north and south villages of Londonderry were terribly impacted. South Londonderry families along the West River, which became a raging, rising muddy torrent, were told to evacuate.

From left, Kevin Beattie, Shane O'Keefe and Tom Cavanagh inspect the Williams Bridge over the West River. <small> Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted</small>

From left, Kevin Beattie, Shane O’Keefe and Tom Cavanagh inspect the Williams Bridge over the West River. Photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted

On Tuesday afternoon, above a calmer but still bubbling river, Londonderry Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe and Select Board Chair Tom Cavanagh surveyed the aging Williams Dam and bridge at Route 11 & 100. Behind them, crews were repairing the washed out Edge Hill Road that snakes along the south side of the river.

The floods had breached the sides of the dam, just a few days after the state inspected the it and before it had a chance to issue a report. “The state will have to take another look at it,” O’Keefe said. For several years, the town has been wrestling over the dam’s future and has even established a group to consider all the options.

While the town administration is concentrating on infrastructure repairs, the fate of its homeowners and businesses remains top of mind. It has brought in the Brattleboro Development Corporation to aid businesses, the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce has also stepped forward, and other volunteers are helping with housing.

Down the street, the businesses were devastated, some having been through this several times before Irene. For the Vermont Butcher Shop, lightning struck twice. Just a couple of weeks ago a fire on the second floor closed the shop. Repairs were being made and new windows added when the floods hit.

Tammy Clough points to the water level on the front door of her market, Mike & Tammy's, on Main Street in Londonderry.

Tammy Clough points to the water level on the front door of her market, Mike & Tammy’s, on Main Street in Londonderry.

Across the street, Tammy Clough, a well-loved baker who owns Mike & Tammy’s convenience store and the Maple Leaf Diner, was mopping up with a large crew of volunteers. Despite the fact that the building sits a few feet above ground, at least 2 feet of water had rushed in. “The community is incredible,” she says, smiling, and referring to the 10 folks who showed up on Tuesday.

Clough believes that between the diner and the store, she lost $15,000 to $20,000 in product alone, “not including equipment,” which would include the outdoor ice chest, dumpster and gas tanks that floated away. She’s not sure where she will turn. “The insurance company calls it ‘an act of God.’ … and FEMA doesn’t make it easy.”

A friend did set up a GoFundMe page for the store. You can donate by clicking here.

Judy Platt, owner of the Garden Market and Cafe, left, speaks with Electrical Inspector Sal Ricitelli.

Judy Platt, owner of the Garden Market and Cafe speaks with Electrical Inspector Sal Ricitelli.

When the river rose, neighbor Judy Platt, who with her husband Tom, owns the Garden Cafe and Gallery and Market and a group of apartments in two fanciful buildings, had been working on a major renovation of the kitchen and restaurant space to accommodate large special events and weddings. While tenants can still occupy the apartments, Platt speculates that the cafe may reopen for business in “two or three months.”

Over in Weston, Mark Martins, who with his husband Geof Brown own the 1827 brick house at the end of Park Street  –  once the home of Vrest and Mildred Orton –  returned temporarily to begin drying out their first floor and its contents. Neighbors showed up to help wash down rugs, clean off furniture and mop the home’s well-aged wide-plank flooring.

Mark Martins sits among the ruins of his newly installed garden at his flooded Weston home.

Mark Martins sits among the ruins of his newly installed garden at his flooded Weston home.

Martins said they had already prepared for a possible evacuation with bags packed. Then their flood alarm went off at 3:15 Monday morning. As they were leaving, Martins said Brown noticed that the neighboring house – filled with folks who work at the Weston Playhouse – had not awakened. They laid on their car horn and banged on the door “to get the kids out.” Martins and Brown hunkered down at a nearby apartment and the Playhouse “kids” were sheltered by the Colonial House Inn.

Water in the stairs heading into the basement of the Weston Playhouse. Photo by Gene Palma.

Water in the stairs heading into the basement of the Weston Playhouse. Photo by Gene Palma.

Martins and Brown had just done a major renovation to their patio overlooking the West River and to the side yard, in which they had heavy steel raised beds filled with rock and soil installed. When they lived in Chester, Irene and the Williams River took out a newly installed stone patio and they thought their new installation was heavy enough to withstand the West River. But the waters had a different idea. Not only did it move those steel raised beds, it turned the Lawrence Hill Road bridge next to them into a buckled mess.

The Weston Playhouse took an especially hard hit with water in the basement higher than Irene when the storm ruined a newly renovated elevator, orchestra pit and instruments including a new grand piano. This flood not only filled the basement and rose 2 feet above previous flood levels, but also impacted audience spaces, according to Executive Artistic Director Susanna Gellert.

Chester: Floating ice chests, flattened cornfields, torn up dirt roads

Sandri District Manager Tena Mowrey points to where the waters took the store's ice freezer.

Sandri District Manager Tena Mowrey points to where the waters took the store’s ice freezer.

On Wednesday, a crew of employees were continuing the job of cleaning out the Sunoco station/Sandri Mart on Main Street in Chester  that had about a foot of water on the floor.

District Manager Tena Mowery told The Telegraph that when the Williams River jumped its banks at the rear of the store, they lost their dumpster and their ice machine. The dumpster floated away, but strangely enough, the ice machine wound up in the trees to the east of the store.

“We went out to take a look at it and it was still full of ice that hadn’t melted,” said Mowery, adding that the store may reopen by Saturday.

Waters took a chunk out of the road to Chester’s Treatment Plant.

Elsewhere in Chester, the rivers took their toll on the Stone Village Farmers Market’s cornfield at Green Mountain Turnpike and Route 11, rolling across the field and pooling near the road.  Owner Anna Coloutti said the last time it the river went that far was during Irene.

There was also damage to the American Legion parking lot and events field as well as the road leading to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

The North Branch of the Williams jumped its banks south of the Stone Village and washed through the north end of the Depot knocking out the radar speed sign  at Route 103 and Flamstead. And while water lapped at the footings of the Yosemite Fire House’s addition, it did not appear to have done any damage.

The heaviest damage in Chester was to the 70-mile long network of dirt roads. On Tuesday night, there were 30 roads that were considered “not passable” by the town. In addition to the town road crew, a number of contractors worked to fix washouts, cave-ins and plugged culverts, but it’s been slow going.

Town workers Edward Rushford, left, and Steve Vertefeuille work to open up a blocked culvert that cause a washout on Popple Dungeon Road.

For example, on Ethan Allen, a culvert became plugged with stones moved by the rushing water which then found a different way, washing out a section of Popple Dungeon Road.

On Tuesday a contractor with a bulldozer and excavator made the Popple Dungeon passable. On Wednesday town employees tried to clear the 24-inch culvert with tools and a fire hose to no avail. And on Thursday the contractors were back to pull out the plugged culvert and put in a new one.

“The repairs are certainly progressing, down to just a few roads that are not passable,” said Town Manager Julie Hance. “But people have to realize that ‘passable’ is not the normal road. It’s a road you can drive on if you need to.

“The town office has gotten calls from people venting about the condition of their roads, but they need to understand that the first priority is to get everyone’s road passable before starting on permanent repairs. It’s likely to be weeks before everything is back to the way it was. This is how it was during Irene,” Hance said.

Following GPS, a tractor trailer got stuck using Popple Dungeon Road as an alternate route.

And if road crews didn’t have enough problems, on Thursday afternoon a tractor trailer driver who was following his GPS got stuck across Popple Dungeon Road and work crews were unable to get by. The information he received from his computer said that Route 11 on his way to Albany was closed so he was going around.

Andover: Some worse than Irene,
but no downed power lines

It was a mixed bag for Andover, where most dirt roads suffered some damage, Town Clerk Jeanette Haight told The Telegraph Wednesday afternoon.

“In some places it looks worse than Irene, but we don’t have the downed power lines that we did during Irene,” she said, adding that a number of roads are down to one lane. “That last cloud burst around 3:30 p.m.” on Monday, she said, “seemed to do a lot of damage.” As the Andover Road Crew makes repairs, it will be assessing the damage and the cost.

Among the many heroic deeds that took place beginning in the wee hours of Monday, fire and rescue crews helped campers in Andover escape after a bridge buckled. Many other deeds will remain unknown. And as dawn broke on Tuesday, less than 10 hours after the rains stopped on Monday night, town crews and folks with big equipment were out working clearing muddy and debris-laden streets, assessing damage and checking on neighbors. And now, get ready for more rain.

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Filed Under: AndoverChesterFeaturedFlood News UpdatesFloods of 7-10-23Latest NewsLondonderryWeston

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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