Healey pledges help with flood damage

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 07-12-2023 6:24 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — After seeing some of the area’s widespread flooding from a helicopter as she flew from Hanscom Field in Bedford to Northampton, Gov. Maura Healey stopped in Williamsburg Wednesday morning to learn more about flood-related damages there.

“Our administration will do all we can to help,” Healey told first responders, acknowledging that money is what people likely would need the most.

Deputy Fire Chief Daryl Springman said crews spent Tuesday doing damage assessments and cleaning out houses and businesses that were affected by flooding. Highway Superintendent Dan Banister said one road washed out and two bridges are shut down until the state Department of Transportation can inspect them.

“Nobody got hurt,” Springman noted.

Springman acknowledged that the speed at which the water levels rose on Monday took everyone by surprise.

That was true for Nan Hill, who had to be rescued from her Ashfield Road home with her husband, Randall Deihl, after the East Branch of the Mill River started rising. She said everything looked OK when she was getting her coffee at 8:30 a.m.

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“By 9 o’clock, it was too late to leave,” she said, describing the river flow as “white water.”

Hill praised the emergency workers who showed up before she had even called. She and Deihl were rescued with the aid of ropes and an inflatable raft; their home, built on pilings, did not flood and hasn’t budged, Hill said.

Wide-ranging impacts

Healey noted that farmers in the Connecticut River Valley have been devastated, also.

“Farming is so important to our economy,” she said. “We’ve got to find a way to help.”

Also on hand for the governor’s visit were state Sen. Paul Mark and state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, along with Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Dawn Brantley, Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, and Northampton Public Works Director Donna LaScaleia.

LaScaleia said Northampton was monitoring two reservoirs that are “overfull” and had closed Route 5 south to Easthampton on Tuesday because of river flooding.

The Connecticut River crested at 115.5 feet early Wednesday at Northampton, where flood stage is 112 feet, according to the National Weather Service. That’s the highest the river has been since it crested at 117.16 feet after Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 30, 2011, and just the fourth time since 1987 that the river has topped 115 feet, according to National Weather Service data.

The Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Fishing and Boating Access said Wednesday that it had closed all state boat ramps on the Connecticut River due to high water. The water level is expected to fall below flood stage early Thursday afternoon.

Brantley said MEMA is coordinating damage assessments and expects to complete its initial report next week. She said 10 to 12 western Massachusetts communities declared local emergencies as a result of the flooding.

Healey was headed later to one of them, North Adams, where Mayor Jennifer Macksey said the initial estimate is that the storm resulted in $2 million in damage, according to State House News Service.

Mark said other towns in his Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire District that are reporting damage, mostly to roads, include Ashfield, Conway and Whately.

Healey said she was committed to helping affected communities.

“We’re going to work to try to find ways to provide assistance and support,” she said.

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