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Cemetery requires cleanup following storms, flooding

  • The cemetery on West Orange Road flooded due to heavy rainfall Friday afternoon. Contributed Photo



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 09, 2018

ORANGE — Rice Flanders of Orange sat atop an old crate on a dirt floor inside her cellar Friday afternoon, after hearing a tornado warning buzzing from her television.

“I thought, ‘This is not Kansas, I am living in Massachusetts,’” she said.

According to the National Weather Service, around 5:20 p.m. Aug. 3, a tornado warning was issued for northeastern Franklin County due to a severe thunderstorm reported to be capable of producing a tornado over Erving and Orange. At the time, the warning urged residents to take cover inside a basement or interior room.

After about 30 minutes in her cellar, Flanders popped back upstairs and headed out the door. Just outside of her home on West Orange Road, she saw that the entire roadway was flooded with rushing water from the heavy rainfall. After chatting with her neighbors, she realized the small cemetery next to her home was also flooded, with water moving with “enormous force” coming from the northeast corner of the cemetery, according to Flanders.

“I’ve lived here for 46 years and we’ve had bad weather, but never like this — I have never had to go to the cellar,” she said.

Highway, Parks and Cemeteries Superintendent Colin Killay responded to the scene after receiving a call from the police regarding the flooding in the road. Police also stood by the scene while Killay and his department removed debris and water from the street. The next morning, Killay said, the department had a local contractor focus on cleaning the cemetery next to Flanders’ home. She said the crew worked throughout the day until all the water and debris — including pine needles, bark and twigs — was removed.

“Everything was cleaned up — the cemetery, the roadway, some of the neighbors that were impacted,” Killay said.

He expressed worry that more inclement weather may cause a similar situation in the future.

“It could continue to be a concern. I can’t say that for sure, but we have seen amounts of rain and weather over the last year that is not usual to this area,” he said.

Flanders said the cleanups were thorough and complete, but she also felt the incident shouldn’t be ignored.

“That is a sweet little cemetery. Quite a few people in the area have family buried there. I think there is something about cemeteries, when they are in some way desecrated or it appears sort of like a desecration, people feel unsettled by it,” she said.

As of Monday, Killay said the area was cleared of water and debris. He said residents should be cautious when traveling down roads that appear to be flooded.

“The problem we had on West Orange Road and Route 2A was that people were still driving through and a lot of them weren’t slowing down in the deep water,” he said. “People need to be cautious of water like that because you can’t drive through it — it isn’t safe.”