Northfield, Warwick continue roadway repairs a month after July rain storm

  • Gulf Road in Northfield is being repaired from storm damage that undermined the pavement. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Gulf Road in Northfield is being repaired from storm damage with angular stone filing washouts. Staff Photo/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Northfield Highway Supervisor Tom Walker surveys a section of Gulf Road in Northfield where they need to install a culvert for a side dirt road. Staff Photo/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Gulf Road in Northfield is being repaired from storm damage. Staff Photo/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

Staff Writer
Published: 8/27/2021 1:43:16 PM

NORTHFIELD — While Tropical Storm Henri caused little to no damage this past week, Northfield and Warwick are continuing to document damage and make repairs related to a July rain storm which caused heavy damage to roadways and resulted in multiple towns declaring states of emergency.

Northfield continues to make repairs to Gulf Road while the town assesses its eligibility for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Association. Speaking during an August 24 Selectboard meeting, Highway Superintendent Tom Walker said the roadway was more heavily damaged from the July storm than the town initially thought. The section of Gulf Road between Alexander Hill and Orange Road is closed this week as the highway department finishes repairs.

“To be honest, it probably should have been shut down right after the storm, from what we’re finding,” Walker told the Selectboard. “There’s sinkholes, once we’re clearing the grass and the scrub brush, I’m not really sure what was holding the road there to be honest...” 

Speaking with the Recorder Wednesday, Walker explained the edges of the roadway were significantly damaged and the asphalt was falling away. He said the highway department needed to place about 3,000 feet worth of gravel and stone to strengthen the edge of the roadway before it could be paved.

The road will be closed through the weekend as the highway department prepares for paving Monday, weather permitting. If it rains Monday, they will pave Tuesday. Walker said they’re aiming to open the road for Sept. 1, for the start of the school year on Wednesday and bussing routes.

Other roads that have required completed and ongoing repairs after the July storm include Pine Meadow Road, Ferry and Lower Ferry Roads, Alexander Hill Road, South Mountain Road, Four Mile Brook Road and Orange Road. While repairs on Gulf Road are being conducted, a detour has been set up to direct drivers to take South Mountain Road. Walker told the Selectboard that there has been a pattern of out of town drivers ignoring clear signage, and calls of drivers with out-of-state plates speeding along the detour route. 

Walker explained Franklin County as a whole needs to meet a “threshold” for the cost of damages incurred to be eligible for FEMA grants. He said there are five different counties that were affected by the flooding and which are listed in a declaration to FEMA alongside Franklin County, including Hampshire County, Berkshire County and Worcester County. Walker said he didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t meet this threshold. He and Fire Chief Floyd “Skip” Dunnell III met with a FEMA representative this past week to visit sites of damage in Northfield and Warwick. Walker estimated that Northfield alone incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage repairs thus far.

Warwick Town Coordinator David Young said they are also working with FEMA to assess the full extent of the damage and subsequent repair costs incurred from the July storm, which severely affected 23 Warwick roads. While final assessments are still being conducted, Young estimated the storm caused between $1 million and $2 million in damages. FEMA reimbursements grants, he explained, would cover 75 percent of expenses if eligible, leaving towns responsible for the remaining 25 percent.

Liesel Nygard, a Warwick resident and incoming freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been working with the town to conduct the assessment of road damage. She has been documenting road damage with Highway Department Superintendent Larry Delaney.

“I had to take photos of any damage that was done, get coordinates, and measure parts of it — length, width, depth, whatever was necessary,” Nygard explained. “... I’m more of the technological person in this project. Uploading, printing, etc. that’s my work in a nutshell.”

Through a “divide and conquer” system, Nygard said she and Delaney each documented a collection of local streets, and collected submitted photos from town residents showing storm damage. With this documentation, they noted the corresponding street for each photo. Nygard organized all the photos on a flash drive containing folders for each of the 23 damaged roads with corresponding photos.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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