Vermont and New Hampshire have requested more than $7 million in federal disaster relief from the Biden Administration for major infrastructure damage that resulted from a severe storm and flood event in late July and early August.
New Hampshire Gov. Christopher Sununu (R) this week requested $3.3 million for damage to small towns in Cheshire and Sullivan Counties. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) earlier this month made a formal request for federal disaster to assist communities in Bennington and Windham County, Vt.
New Hampshire is managing recovery efforts for six disasters “of which five were declared within a 22-month period between August 2017 and July 2019, the request says. This is the second request for a major disaster relief within the last month. If approved along with a request submitted on Sept. 11 for the July 17-19 severe storm and flooding, it would be the third federally declared disaster for the state in the past 18 months.
Storms that stretched from Manchester, Vt. to Bellows Falls, south to Putney, Vt. impacted the state’s southernmost Bennington and Windham counties, as well as New Hampshire, from July 20 to July 30, setting the stage for flooding in those areas when a second storm hit on Aug 1-2.
While the two rainfall events occurred 48 hours apart on July 29 to Aug. 2, reports from the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine indicate that “hydrological data supporting the connection between the two rounds of flash flooding…between the two dates support a logical and scientific decision to consider this a single natural disaster,” according to Gov. Sununu’s Sept. 20 request.
“Many communities impacted by these storms were left with repair costs that far exceed their annual road maintenance budgets,” said Gov. Scott. “This is an area of our state that felt the impacts of storms of all sizes over the past year, and without federal assistance, they will be left with another bill that will impact its residents for some time.”
In Sullivan County, N.H., the hardest hit town of Acworth lost 75% of its road infrastructure. It suffered $1.4 million in verified damages, according to its Federal Emergency Management Agency Preliminary Damage Assessments (FEMA PDA.) However, an engineer estimates emergency repairs alone to make the 29 damaged roads serviceable for winter is about $7.8 million, Sununu’s request says. The cost of permanent repairs and necessary mitigation will eclipse by far the annual average capital budget of $750,000.
Also in Sullivan County, culverts purchased by the town of Unity to “complete planned upgrades to their storm water infrastructure this summer were instead repurposed to make emergency repairs immediately after the storm,” the state’s request says. The town is unable to purchase any additional culverts for planned improvements since high demand after the storm has made them unavailable.
In the town of Alstead in Cheshire County, N.H., where $40,000 had been appropriated for highways and streets, the PDA-validated cost of the disaster is estimated at $383,236, the request says. This is about 95% of the town’s annual budget for that type of work.
Damage reported by the New Hampshire Dept. of Transportation (NHDOT) included four bridges, 37 state roads and 12 culverts. A NHDOT-owned active rail corridor lost a section of a 2.5-ft-long by 4-ft-wide by 60-ft-long stone box culvert beneath a segment of track. This caused “the immediate suspension of rail freight services in the area” and the need for replacement of the culvert’s full length, according to Sununu’s request. In addition, the downstream segment of the box culvert is integral to the structure of a section of a 50-in-dia Dept. of Environmental Services 60-sewer system pipe.
The New Hampshire Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) also reported six wood and/or steel constructed bridges were damaged in the event, including one that washed downstream. DCNR is still gathering a full assessment of damage to state-owned property and infrastructure. While it did not participate in the FEMA PDA, it has estimated $250,000 in damages to state property in Sullivan Country for this event.