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Good News And Bad News. August 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
Tags: , ,

Well, like all rumors, the news that Shelburne Falls was destroyed was, thankfully, somewhat of an overstatement.  The truth is that there was a hell of a lot of damage done, but much of the village was spared.  The sad part is that what was most affected may be irreparably damaged.

By the time I got a good look at the place (by a slightly duplicitous ploy; as I sat at a Route 2 roadblock watching the police turn Eastbound cars around I saw an emergency vehicle go around the police car and continue eastward, so I threw on my yellow roadwork vest and followed the next official-looking vehicle through, shouting “I’m with him!” to the helplessly waving officer) the waters had receded substantially.  I got to the observation deck at the former Mole Hollow Candle store to find the dam running at (by eye) about 10,000 cubic feet per second, compared to a usual summertime high of 1200 cfs:

The Lamson Cuttlery Factory, the complex of red buildings to the left, has by all accounts been rendered junk and may well be demolished; it was quite deeply involved at the height of the flood.

How deeply, you might ask?  Well, if this is 10,000 cfs:

…the whole tree left on the bank attests to what this scene must have looked like at the river’s high point of 40,000 cfs.  The pink building at left used to be a quilt shop; it’s a total loss, and the houses around it may be as well.  I counted perhaps a dozen businesses in the immediate vicinity which are similarly total losses, and suspect there are many more which I missed on my cursory inventory.

At its height the flood did indeed top the Bridge of Flowers and slosh over the deck of the town’s central Steel Bridge:

…but just barely.  A pile of 12″ logs wedged between the steel and stone of the road bridge attests to that:

While at first glance the Bridge of Flowers seemed relatively unscathed:

…it was ghostly silent with no one on it, and a peek around the upriver side yeilded a heart-wrenching sight of structural devastation due to the battering inflicted by passing objects such as great whole oaks, cars, trucks and buses (Crabapple Rafting lost at least one), and the seventy or so van-sized propane tanks ripped from their moorings at the Rice Oil and Propane depot in Charlemont, as well as various deck and barn pieces:

There’s talk that the structure may be a total loss, though at this point it’s just talk.  We’ll have to wait and pray and see what happens.

As long as I was out I threw a load of washed clothes in the dryer at the local laundromat – they doubtless need the business in this nearly shut down town – and ran some errands in Greenfield, absent mindedly hopping on Route 91 Southbound for a quick trip back to  the west side of town, forgetting that the Interstate was closed eight miles farther south because of possible damage to a bridge over the lower Deerfield.  I spent an hour and a half going the short two miles:

Heading back westward, I took one more spin through Shelburne Falls to pick up my laundry and noticed this sign in the window of the great West End Pub, which is one of the riverside businesses suffering enough structural damage so that its fate is dubious at best:

I’ll have more shots soon of my reconnaissance to find a way westward for Tuesday’s return to work.


1. kkryno - August 30, 2011

Wow, Ralph. That’s so devestating. My heart goes out to all there. It does look like the type of community that will pull each other up and build and thrive once again. It’s awful that such beautiful and historic places can be damaged or destroyed in an instant. Amazing pics.

2. littlebangtheory - August 30, 2011

Vikki, it sure makes one feel transient and vulnerable to Mother’s whims. And I wouldn’t blame Her if She’s pissed at us humans for the way we’re treating Her.

Shelburne Falls is indeed a great community indeed, and I’m sure they’ll do their best. But The Bridge is their life-blood in the summer.

Keep your fingers crossed.

3. Louise Banks - August 31, 2011

Nature is powerful for sure what we are witness to is simply both amazing and overwhelming!!!!!

4. littlebangtheory - August 31, 2011

Louise, I share your enthusiasm while at the same time grieving for the deep losses of my neighbors to the north. Losing everything takes the wonder out of natural disasters, and I’m in an empathetic mood this time ’round.

5. lisahgolden - September 1, 2011

I was afraid to ask about the Bridge of Flowers. My heart aches for the losses.

6. littlebangtheory - September 1, 2011

lisa, mine as well, but we’ll heal. Thanks for the caring.

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