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Cleanup continues after Lancaster flooding damage

Union Leader Correspondent

February 26. 2018 11:06PM
Chunks of ice push up from the Israel River on Monday against the former Lancaster National Bank, now the Israel River Shops. One of the Israel River Shops' tenants, the Copper Pig Brewery, was damaged when the river overflowed its banks on Feb. 21 because of an ice jam. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

The ice-jammed Israel River in Lancaster has caused flooding to local businesses. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LANCASTER — Although Town Hall has never closed since the basement was flooded Feb. 21 due to an ice jam on the Israel River, the cleanup will last into mid-March, according to Town Manager Edward Samson.

Samson said on Monday that the flooding, which is not uncommon and left 18 inches of water in the basement, largely spared the town’s heating system and storage, but noted that a tenant, Partners in Health, was significantly affected and was forced to dispose of many items in its clothing pantry because they got wet.

Meanwhile, across the river from Town Hall, the Copper Pig Brewery, which was poised to make beer when the floodwaters came between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. last Wednesday, said on its Facebook page that it had crafted “ …a recipe just for the occasion ... Ice Jam Lager!!!” adding that it hoped to re-open by the end of March.

“This is nothing new or unusual for our town hall,” said Samson, who, as the town’s former police chief, recalled that the Police Department used to occupy the space now held by Partners in Health, which is located on the north side of the building and came to expect flooding every three years.

When the Route 3 bridge over the Israel was rebuilt in the 1990s, it was done so without a central pier so as to minimize ice jams, said Samson, but what happened in the flooding last week is that the Israel River, from a previous warm spell, had been jammed up in the west.

But because the river stayed in its channel then, rather than overflowing into flood plains, the water and ice from the most recent thaw had no place to go but up, over, and into the Town Hall basement and the Copper Pig.

Samson said Partners in Health, which he called “a great asset for our community,” bore the brunt of the flooding at Town Hall.

“Unfortunately, they had tons of things all of which were donated and much of it was clothing and anything that got wet has to be removed and can no longer be offered free or for sale because of the risk of contamination,” Samson explained.

The unfortunate thing about having Town Hall where it is, Samson continued, is that “it’s highly likely that this will happen again and there’s really nothing we can do. If we were to erect some kind of retaining wall, we’d only force the water across the river to the Main Street/Middle Street intersection.”

Dismayed by the flooding, Samson was also a bit impressed, noting that the force of the floodwater “blew open” a basement door and then brought in not only water, but “ice chunks of significant size that floated into the building.” The floodwaters were so powerful, he said, that a large piece of concrete was broken off and carried some 10 feet.

“No one was hurt, which is always a blessing,” said Samson, “but Mother Nature can be very hard and we’ve learned over the years that there’s only so much that can be done.”

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