Trump approves Grafton County flood aid

President Trump approved Friday disaster aid for Grafton County towns hard hit by flash flooding and severe rains last month. Here, Michael Lemieux owner of Sculptured Rocks Farm Country Inn, drove his tractor past the road closed sign. The Inn property sits atop a knoll and as a result was not damaged in last week’s storm that caused flash flooding along the Cockermouth River.

CONCORD — State and local emergency management officials are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine the total cost of damage from last week’s storm.

If the preliminary damage assessment meets the needed threshold, the Gov. Chris Sununu will apply for a major disaster declaration, which makes federal funds available to government entities and some private nonprofits providing critical services, according to Benjamin Vihstadt, a Sununu spokesman.

In Groton, one of the harder-hit communities, the local highway department is grateful for the helping hand from area contractors who have been working with them since Thursday’s torrential rain to make the repairs needed to reopen Sculptured Rocks Road.

“Early Friday morning there was three feet of water over the road. It looked like a whitewater river,” highway department worker Norm Willey said as he directed drivers to turn around in the parking lot at the Sculptured Rocks geological site.

Since news of the flood damage was televised, Willey said, the area has become a magnet for the curious, forcing the department to keep an employee stationed at the parking area so road repair could continue unimpeded.

Blessed with substantially more resources, including manpower, Willey said the NH Department of Transportation was able to quickly repair state roadways that were damaged. The town-maintained Edgar Albert Road, which houses about a dozen residents and was also damaged in the storm, was able to reopen Friday.

On Monday, workers used three excavators and a backhoe to replace culverts on Sculptured Rocks Road while a fleet of dump trucks hauled away debris, including chunks of pavements torn up by the flash flooding.

“Everyone in the area who had a piece of equipment stopped the projects they were working on and came out to help,” Willey said.

Willey’s neighbor, a meteorologist who maintains a weather station at his home, recorded 6.5 inches of rainfall in Groton between Thursday and Friday.

“(The flooding) came down through a place that it never came through before into an area where there is a cluster of homes,” Willey said.

While no injuries were reported, one mobile home was determined to be uninhabitable and a parked SUV ended up in a nearly 10-foot deep hole.

The water raced down Bear Mountain, causing Atwell Brook to make a new channel. Ironically, a new bridge that replaced a 50-year-old span following the 2017 flood was made wider and taller to prevent it from becoming a choke point. But the brook went over its banks upstream of the bridge, Willey said.

The area which abuts the 3,000-acre Kimball Hill Forest has a number of tributaries that flow into the Cockermouth River, which has carved the Sculptured Rocks. Despite the sediment that turned the fast-moving water brown, people were still wading in the river on Monday, seeking respite from the heat.

“It seems like we are having a 100-year weather event, every two years,” Willey said.

The department was bracing for more bad weather as the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry are forecast to arrive on Thursday.

Last week’s storm flooded the highway garage. Town employees were able to get the bulk of their equipment to higher ground, unlike two years ago when the town lost a truck, lawn mowers, a pressure washer, snowblowers and other tools.

.

Union Leader Staff Writer Lisa Redmond contributed to this report.