The Damage Done. August 30, 2011Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
Tags: Charlemont, cold river, Colrain, deerfield river, flood damage, hot dogs, Route 112, route 2, washouts
I got out for a bit yesterday, with the dual intention of finding a passable route westward for today’s travel to work. The main route through the region (Route 2) was closed just west of town, so I ranged farther east, then north, in search of open roads.
Now, I’d already been stunned by the spectacle of high water and amazed at the wreckage of mud-encrusted Shelburne Falls, but with the water levels dropping, a whole new level of devastation was being revealed.
I got to Shelburne, then headed north on Route 112 through Colrain. At the hamlet of Lyonsville, the first bridge was closed – the roadway, gone:
I back-tracked, knowing a long-cut through the hills.
Beyond the bridge was more destruction. Dams:
Not gone, but nonetheless destroyed. These high tension lines suspended a mangled tower over the North river. They’re fully loaded, supplying a large part of the region with power, and can’t be shut down until a reach-around is arranged. Good luck with that.
The road northward through Halifax, VT was, shall we say, “compromised:”
It’s over the State Line and so won’t be my job, but it’s worth noting that the miles of road in this condition in Southern Vermont are nearly uncountable.
Jacksonville, VT took a monstrous hit; they opened the Glory Hole at Whitingham Reservoir to avert a dam breach, but totaled a lot of the places downstream, including the Honore (formerly North River) Winery:
It wouldn’t be there at all if the dam had let loose, so I’d say this mess qualifies as the Lesser of Several Evils.
I stopped to inquire about the way westward, and learned that it wasn’t going to happen – Wilmington was unreachable by land by any means. Bennington, the next large city going west, was similarly unreachable. National Guard helicopters were doing the essential lifting there.
I headed south at Readsboro, following the Deerfield back south into Massachusetts, making it as far as Dunbar Brook:
It’s gonna take more than asphalt to patch that pothole, I do believe.
A long ride over Monroe Bridge, astonishingly intact, led back through Rowe to the lower part of River Road, where Zoar Gap had reduced the road to one undercut lane. Finally, I’d found a way out, via Whitcomb Hill Road. That would be, um, sweet come winter.
With daylight fading I retreated to Charlemont, hoping to get a glimpse of what was keeping Route 2 from opening – it’s the main east-west artery in northern Massachusetts, and sees a tremendous amount of commercial as well as private traffic. I slipped on my yellow work vest and hard hat, passing the National Guard roadblock with a business-like wave, stopping to bullshit wth the local police who knew my work, and swerving slowly around the last group of local residents beyond the roadblock:
It was good to see people whose lives had been devastated turning the disaster into a rare opportunity to grill on the double yellow line. They handed me a hot-dog on home-made jalepeno bread as I passed, admonishing me with a wink to “take pictures.” They’d been up the road and knew I’d be impressed.
I know the Cold River along this beautiful stretch of Route 2 well, every swimming hole and sunning rock. But not today.
Today, it was gone. Gone! All of it, the swimming holes, the forested shorelines, the valley I love so much I can taste it, gone.
Route 2, the lifeline of our county, miles of it, gone:
Car sized boulders and a forest’s worth of trees buried the pavement, filled the gaping holes, obliterated the way forward:
And the river was unrecognizable, its massive concrete retaining walls collapsed, its course altered for all time, its beautiful pools obliterated.
I don’t mind saying that I cried. I’m still grieving as I write this, for the beauty which won’t be back in my lifetime, for the special places I’ll never see again, that no-one will ever see again. Places I was so looking forward to seeing this Autumn are now lost forever, joining their ancestral mountain fathers in the sea, perhaps to rise again in a billion years, In Sh’Allah.
It’s my job to fix this sort of thing; roads and bridges, that’s what I do. But when the money’s not there, fixing things takes a long, long time. In the meantime, while I’m infinitely grateful that everyone I know and love survived this storm, everything I love didn’t. And I’m going to miss it.
I know, “It’s a big world. Find other spots.” Of course I will. That’s what we do.
Back at the cold river, I turned and drove back down the valley, stopping for one more burger, served with courage and good cheer by folks who knew exactly what I was feeling:
After all, it’s their river, too.