Towns continue to grapple with rain-induced damage, road closures

  • North Street in Erving is currently closed to through traffic. Only local traffic is permitted to pass following the past weekend’s storms. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • North Street in Erving is currently closed to through traffic. Only local traffic is permitted to pass following the past weekend’s storms. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • North Street in Erving is currently closed to through traffic. Only local traffic is permitted to pass following the past weekend’s storms. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Erving’s Swamp Road and its bridge are currently closed to all traffic. A large caved-in section of the pavement shows weather damage from the past weekend’s storms. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Erving’s Swamp Road and its bridge are currently closed to all traffic. A large caved-in section of the pavement shows weather damage from the past weekend’s storms. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Greenfield Road (Routes 5 and 10) in Deerfield was still flooded Wednesday afternoon near Richardson’s Candy Kitchen. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield Road (Routes 5 and 10) in Deerfield was still flooded Wednesday afternoon near Richardson’s Candy Kitchen. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 7/21/2021 6:39:12 PM

Though some towns have lifted their states of emergency, Deerfield and Erving are among the towns still grappling with damages and road closures as a result of the deluge of rain the areas received over the weekend. Both towns are exploring feasible options for moving forward with recovery and repairs.

In Deerfield, the Selectboard declared a state of emergency on Sunday to address multiple flooded roads and washouts. Greenfield Road (Routes 5 and 10) by Richardson’s Candy Kitchen was closed Tuesday night by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to pump water out of the road. Areas of River Road also experienced washouts.

Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness said the Police and Highway departments have been working around the clock and she gives them “great praise” for their work on the roads.

“It’s been hard on our highway guys, they’re out there all the time,” Shores Ness said. “It hasn’t been a one-time job, they’ve been out there since (Tropical Storm) Elsa.”

The town has limited options when it comes to Routes 5 and 10 because it is a state road and not under Deerfield’s jurisdiction. Shores Ness said MassDOT is unresponsive to complaints, which is forcing the town to bring its legislative representatives into action.

“Routes 5 and 10 are closed a lot now. It’s a safety issue. ... We’ve been complaining a lot and hopefully we get some action soon,” Shores Ness said. “We need to put some pressure on them again. It’s just not acceptable. This is just the standard operating system now.”

There is still water present by Richardson’s Candy Kitchen even after five hours of pumping by MassDOT Tuesday night and there is more rain in the forecast.

Shores Ness said the culverts currently present on Greenfield Road are “way undersized” to deal with the storms the area now receives.

Additionally, there were three areas of concern on River Road, Shores Ness said. The emergency declaration was made to try and get repairs made quickly, but that is only the start.

“Kevin (Scarborough, the highway superintendent) is going to shore up the side of the road,” she said. “We’re looking for a long-term fix.”

The Highway Department is working on clearing debris out of culverts. Shores Ness said clearing the culverts out will “minimize damage.”

She added that repairs are expensive and the town may need to apply for grants to fund repair projects.

“The problem is, any of these true restoration jobs you are trying to make resilient for future climate change impact are expensive,” Shores Ness said. “Everything is hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Even though these projects are expensive, Shores Ness said they need to be pursued because climate change is causing more extreme weather.

“Intensive storms are just the new normal,” she said.

The damages are not the only concern either. Shores Ness, who helped develop the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, said the rain has washed out existing mosquito larvae, but new standing pools of water formed by the storms raise concerns for the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few days with all those full containers,” Shores Ness said. “We have to watch that and continue to trap and test for West Nile Virus.”

In Erving, the Selectboard likewise declared a state of emergency on Sunday, and then held an emergency meeting on Monday. At the meeting, the board addressed through-traffic closure to North Street, closures to Swamp Road Bridge and Kavanaugh Lane, and traffic limitations on Wheelock Street and Poplar Mountain Road.

“At this point, we have a good sense for the totality of this damage,” Administrative Coordinator Bryan Smith said on Wednesday.

Erving’s state of emergency update from Monday states the town sustained “significant damage to private and public property as well as critical infrastructure.” One of the most severely impacted areas is the bridge at Swamp Road. Smith said he and others assessing the situation “don’t believe that the bridge can be salvaged” and that plans to remove the deck are already in motion. Other significant damage includes the breaking down of the retaining wall on North Street.

Erving Police, Fire, Highway and Wastewater departments had been responding to calls and maintaining infrastructure since early in the morning on Sunday. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) came to town to document the damage, Smith said, as well as MassDOT, which sought to address storm-related issues on Route 2, Route 63, Old State Road and Forest Street.

The Erving Selectboard is pursuing proposals for how to deal with the damage in collaboration with other state entities. Another meeting is anticipated next week to discuss how to move forward.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081. Julian Mendoza can be reached at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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