HOLDERNESS – For the first time in almost three years, the Pemigewasset River rose Wednesday morning, flooding gas stations and Plymouth State University properties along Route 175-A on what locals call "the floodplain."
According to the National Weather Service, the river rose from its normal winter level of 3 to 6 feet to a peak of 16.95 feet at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. It had dropped back to 15.35 feet at 12:30 p.m. Flood stage for the river is 13 feet.
Residents and business owners found the floodplain area covered with 5 to 6 feet of water. Water had reached the doors of the PSU Physical Education Center and the university's Hanaway Ice Arena. Two convenience stores with gas pumps also were covered with water and closed Wednesday morning.
Route 175-A and nearby Exit 24 of Interstate 93 were closed.
"The parking lots close to Route 175 and some of the athletic fields were covered with water," said PSU's Bruce Lyndes. "The physical education center and the ice arena were closed as a precaution and not affected."
Hanaway Arena manager Dave Gyger said the arena building, built three years ago on land directly adjacent to the river, was closed to students Wednesday like the other affected buildings. Wednesday classes were called off in the affected buildings.
The floodplain area is known to be flooded in extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain after the March-April snow and ice melt. It was last flooded in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene.
"It's nowhere near as bad as when Irene hit," Gyger said.
Several buildings in the floodplain area have marks painted showing water-level marks from past floods. The Hanaway arena was built with flood protection because of the area's record of occasional river overflows.
"They designed a depression in the parking lot that drains the water well. We didn't have any real problems," Gyger said.
When Irene hit in August of 2011, the river peaked at 21.69 feet.
Town and university officials expected the water to continue to recede, and the affected buildings should be open on Thursday.
By noon, the water had "gone down considerably," Gyger said.