One year ago today, it began to rain. And rain. And rain. And three days later, after more than two inches fell and $2.7 million of town property was destroyed, along with countless more dollars in personal property, it finally stopped.
“That was the worst since I’ve been first selectman,” said First Selectman Dan Steward, who became the town leader in 2005. “It was an absolute mess.”
The storm, although bad on its own, was made worse because of the heavy rains that came before it. The ground was already saturated; so much of the rain ran on top the ground, over streets and into houses.
Overall, the town received more than 13 inches of rain for the month of March, shattering the previous record of 9.6 inches, according to AccuWeather.
Putting that number in perspective, this January of any January in Waterford history, with 60 inches, or five feet. Comparatively, 13 inches of rain would be the equivalent of approximately 13 feet of snow, according to an equation from the National Weather Service. That is well more than double January’s total.
Personal Property Destroyed
Asking people around town about the flooding is like asking people about their first kiss: They remember exactly where they were and how it affected them. And everybody Patch talked to had some sort of story to go with the weather event.
Take Harry Haynes, who lives on Shore Road. Haynes lives below wetlands, and those flooded over; forcing the water down the hill and into his finished basement.
“It was coming in like gangbusters,” Haynes said. “We had two and three sump pumps going and we still could barely keep up with it.”
Nearly a foot of rainwater entered his basement, destroying the carpet and forcing him to replace the sheetrock. Additionally, a sump pump had to be installed as well, he said.
Overall, fixing the basement took about five weeks because the room had to dry out before it could be sheetrocked again, and cost more than $6,000, Haynes said. Homeowners insurance covered none of the cost, he said.
“It was all out of pocket,” he said, although added that with the newly added sump pump, preventive measures have been taken. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”
Worse off than Haynes was William VonWinkle, who owned the Quaker Hills Farm building on Old Norwich Road in Quaker Hill.
The building, which at the time housed Quaker Hills Farm and a plumbing supply store, sits in front of a brook. The brook overflowed with water, destroying the building and causing part of the parking lot to collapse.
The building was never reopened. Patch called VonWinkle five times Tuesday (there was no voicemail or answering machine), but received no answer any time.
Overall, the flood cost the town $2.7 million, Steward said. Most of that costs is for road reconstruction, although some was spent on overtime for emergency responders.
More than 20 roads were damaged by the storm. Some of the roads have been fixed, but 13 remain to be done, Steward said.
Most of the roads are built on top of sand, the first selectman said. When the heavy rains came in, it washed away much of the sand base, causing the road to collapse, he said.
The town has applied to FEMA for $1.4 million in financial aid. The rest of the roads will be fixed as money comes in, Steward said.