By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Wednesday evening’s intense thunderstorms brought flooding to several streets and basements around the business district in downtown White River Junction on what was the second anniversary of the flooding that occurred the night Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont in 2011.
Motorists were stranded in several spots as water suddenly rose above their car’s axles in low spots like the one beneath the railroad underpass on Maple Street next to the Hartford Municipal Building and even on normally high and dry swaths of pavement like the intersection of Routes 4 and 5.
Hartford Police Sgt. Connie Kelley was responding to one report of motorists who’s cars had conked out in deep water only to nearly become one herself.
“I came down the hill by the former LISTEN Center/25,000 Gifts building and basically hit like a lake in the road,” Sgt. Kelley recalled, noting, “The water came up over the hood of my cruiser.”
A parking area behind the block housing the Briggs Opera House was completely underwater, as was a section of Currier Street and neighboring Gates and Church Streets just on the other side of the large telephone building that looms over the downtown core.
While the flooding that accompanied Irene damaged a key railroad trestle above the White River and flooded several businesses right alongside its banks, the central “square” and nearby buildings along North Main Street were largely unscathed whereas on Wednesday the flooding seemed to come more from the lack of action by the village’s storm drains and an actual water main break at the Route 4 and 5 intersection which sent a wave of water clear down to the intersection in front of the Bugbee Senior Center.
“This is unprecedented,” said Hotel Coolidge owner David Briggs who was out with a flashlight just after 10 a.m. assessing the amount of water in the basements of several downtown businesses.