Two days after Hurricane Irene dumped massive rain in New England, I flew my Piper Cub over the area to get a better look at the damage around Rutland, West Bridgewater, Pittsfield and Brandon, taking several photos along the way.
All of these photos can be clicked to enlarge for better detail. (Map showing route of flight. See links to photos of specific towns at bottom of this page.)
Flying north along Route 7 from the airport, the road closure near LaValley's is evident, with the typical "hanging guardrail" seen nearly everywhere the roads were washed out.
North of Rutland where Route 7 crosses a different stream (near Williams Farm Stand) the river bed has been markedly widened by the surge and numerous trees have been undercut by the water then collected in piles, along with other debris. I think these were all live trees that fell into the river then got "rock blasted" as they went downstream.
Heading up (east) on Route 4, the widely published view of the road washout just past Sugar and Spice is seen, but in fact there are at least 4 separate portions of the road that have collapsed into the riverbed between there and the Wheelerville Bridge, which itself looks intact. Evidently the first step in fixing this is to "put the river back" where it belongs.
One of the access ramps can be seen connecting the road down to the riverbed, and the exposed section of the Alpine Sewer pipe is visible. A huge swath of rocks, trees, and even segments of pipeline lies where the quiet little Mendon Brook used to be.
Much of the Wheelerville Road has been turned into rubble, and most of the bridges appear damaged or missing.
Heading east past Killington access road and down Route 4 towards West Bridgewater, the largest area of washout appears to be near the church at the bottom of the hill and the adjacent hardware store. The first photo is looking east and the second one is flying back towards Rutland and looking west.
Hemingway's Restaurant, with the parking lot appearing to be completely filled with mud.
West Bridgewater looking to the north over Route 100. Segments of Route 100 appear to be passable at this point, although there are still several areas of roadside washout. Note another hanging guardrail. At least 4 separate areas of road washout were seen just between Farm and Wilderness and town of West Bridgewater.
West Bridgewater, at the intersection of Route 4 and Route 100. Apparently all roads into and out of the town are impassable due to collapse.
Several sections of Route 100 south of Pittsfield are badly damaged. Logs are piled up along a bridge on Route 100.
The old covered bridge just south of Pittsfield near the Riverside Farm is non-existent, and several houses in that area have been moved from their foundations. Damage in Pittsfield appears to be fairly extensive. Some additional photos of Pittsfield.
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Downtown Brandon. The Brandon House of Pizza has been moved from its foundation, and there is extensive road damage in the heart of town.
Meanwhile on the walk home, Woodward Road remains impassable due to wash out around the culvert. As in most of the other damaged areas, it's hard to imagine how such a small stream can suddenly be required to handle such a large volume of water, but that's what happened throughout the area, and certainly most of the rest of Vermont as well.
Comments and Opinion:
I was amazed at the amount of damage that occurred high up on various mountainsides and the distribution of damage along totally different watershed areas on both sides of a given hillside. For instance, there is significant road damage to Route 73 over Brandon gap that has occured very near the TOP of the gap. This was clearly not a single river gone wild. It was every river in the county taxed beyond its normal capacity.
After touring the area from the air and getting a fuller perspective it seems to me that access to Rutland from the east via Route 4 will be blocked for some time due to the segment of damaged areas between Wheelerville and Meadowlake Roads. In many of the other damaged areas both along Route 4 and Route 100 the depth of damage seems much more "shallow", such that temporary fill can be accomplished fairly quickly by comparison and perhaps allow 2 way vehicle passage shortly, although it's likely there may need to be limitations even then. The badly damaged segment of Route 4 has established single lane passage alongside the "existing" roadway for service and emergency vehicles, but it certainly appears that a very large volume of fill will be required to widen that to any extent.
I did not fly over Woodstock so an expectation of opening of that segment of Route 4 east of West Bridgewater can't be made based on this flight.