On July 26, 2023

Weekend rain devastates Hartland


By Curt Peterson

Hartland seemed a safe haven from the horrendous flooding across Vermont July 7-12 — at least until this past weekend.

“And then we had 4-5 inches of rain in eight hours,” Interim Town Manager  Martin Dole said.  “The ground was already saturated from four weeks of steady rain, and just couldn’t absorb any more.”

Trees fell over because their roots were in softened ground and culverts burst under tremendous pressure from swelling streams and ditches carrying water and debris. Dole traveled the entire town, driving gravel roads, making notes and taking photos of the flood conditions and damage, then he and Select Board chair Phil Hobbie were able to designate five roads that will require help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to be made passable. FEMA inspectors will have to determine whether those roads qualify for aid.

“It will take us 6-8 weeks to get the other roads back to normal,” Dole said. “There’s no way of telling how long before the five FEMA-designated roads will be repaired.”

Five roads, including Shute Road, Cady Brook Trail, Reeves Road and Best Road and Scribner Road were closed as of July 24 and nine roads, including Jenneville Road, Jenne Road, Moeller Road, Densmore Road , Brownsville Road, Weed Road, Martinsville Road, Town Farm Road and Advent Road were significantly damaged.

Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission pitched in to help with logistics. The town is short one road crew member, but is working hard trying to get roads usable by local drivers, some of whom have been isolated by washouts.

“On Saturday, four or five contractors spent 14 hours helping with road repairs,” Dole said.

  Hartland’s road issues are not the only result of the torrential rains. There are lots of people who have lost property or suffered damages to their homes. 

“It’s urgent that victims of the storm call 2-1-1 and register their losses,” Dole said, as there may be emergency relief available.

In Woodstock, near the Hartland town line, Morgan Hill Road had partially washed out, and The Loop Road had to be closed, as a once-tiny brook washed the gravel all the way down to the ledge beneath it. 

Nearby Reading experienced significant flooding July 10, including a bridge along Route 106 that was destroyed. 

While Friday night’s rain did not match the first storm’s totals, Robert Allen, a Reading selectboard member, said new flooding had destroyed some progress in fixing washouts and created new damage as well.

“We had a couple of roads that experienced washouts that didn’t get hurt in the initial storm,” Allen said.

“The first time it was debris,” Allen said, describing what caused damage in the initial round of flooding. “This time it was so much water that the culverts just couldn’t take it.”

He said a rain gauge at his home measured more than 2.5 inches of rain in about four hours on Friday.

“My wife and I went over every single road in town yesterday and made notes,” Allen said. “We wanted to catch anything that was new, and we knew we were looking at some of the stuff we had not gotten to yet.”

“We’re surveying roads every time we have a storm,” Allen said. With streams high and the ground saturated, additional flooding is possible. In the meantime, Reading is waiting to work directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’ve been told we’re on the list,” Allen said.

Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger contributed to this reporting.

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