Thursday, July 06, 2017

Failing the Lynch Test

                                 Union Leader Photo 

In 2005, torrential rains caused flooding in Cheshire County.  Between 8 and 11 inches of rain fell on Sunday, October 9, 2005 A third of Keene was underwater, 2 people drowned in a car in Unity, and a double-arched stone bridge was washed away in Walpole. Alstead was hit the hardest. A weakened dam and a broken culvert resulted in a 4-5 foot wall of water surging downstream, damaging a dozen bridges on Rt. 123 and damaged several miles of road. Four people died. It was a disaster.

Governor John Lynch was in Europe on a trade mission. He flew back on Sunday, and the day after the storm, he was in Alstead.  The governor declared a state of emergency, and traveled all over Cheshire County assessing the damage.  Lynch spent a great deal of time in Alstead, where houses and businesses had been washed away. The rebuilding and repairing took over three years.

Six years later, Tropical Storm Irene blew through NH and Vermont, wreaking havoc in late August of 2011. The damage was profound in the northern part of the state, where what little infrastructure there is was badly hurt. Part of Route 16 was washed out. Rt. 302 (the only other method of north/south egress) was washed out by the Willey House and the Sawyer River Bridge was completely wiped out. Part of the Kancamagus Highway was damaged. The Notchland Inn, located in Harts Location, between the two was isolated for days. Governor Lynch flew into Harts Location in a helicopter to assess the damage and begin taking the steps to get FEMA money flowing to help repair and rebuild. The timetable was crucial because in just a few weeks, tourists would be arriving to see the fall foliage. Those roads and bridges were vital to the area’s economy.

Whatever one’s political leanings were, it was clear after 2005 that Governor Lynch excelled in handling disasters. His slicker was ready to jumpstart as needed. The roads were all open by foliage. A temporary bridge spanned Sawyer River while a new bridge was built.

Each of these were declared to be “hundred year storms,” or the kind of storms one would see every hundred years. Apparently a hundred years isn’t what it used to be.

On Saturday, July 1, 2017, six years after Irene, torrential rains pummeled the northern part of the state. Rain fell at about an inch an hour. There was serious flooding in a number of places. The usual places along the Saco flooded. Campgrounds in the Campton area flooded. Roads were washed out around Grafton County. Orford was especially hard hit. A large section of Rt. 25A was wiped out. Nearly every road in the town of Sugar Hill was damaged. The old culverts that the town hasn’t been able to replace proved to be inadequate.

Roads were washed out. Roads were undermined. The next day, (Sunday) stories of campers being rescued from flooded campgrounds, and videos of roads disintegrating were everywhere. Upper and Lower Falls on the Kancamagus were closed, because the water was still so wild.  The cleaning up began.

It wasn’t until Monday that our governor appeared on the scene. Governor Chris Sununu flew over Grafton County in a helicopter. He landed in Campton at a campground and spoke to some tourists from out of state who had been rescued. A reporter from WMUR was with him. Sununu said he “is likely” to seek a federal disaster declaration from President Trump. He thanked the first responders, and the local fire and rescue. He then made his most important point – that despite the extensive damage, “New Hampshire’s open for business.”

That stop in Campton appears to be the only stop that the Governor made. He did march in some parades on the Fourth. As I write this, the Governor has still not issued a formal statement.

There was also considerable damage in Vermont. Governor Phil Scott issued a press release urging Vermonters to put safety first, thanking first responders, various government agencies, and emergency personnel. The statement also directs people to various emergency resources. It’s the response of a leader.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, we have a guy who made a big deal of interfering with Fish and Game about some bears. We have a governor whose first legislative priority was passing a gun bill. We have a governor that did a flyover of Grafton County, made one stop, then announced NH is open for business. We have a governor who began complaining about voter fraud before he was elected, and has spent a lot of time on this non-existent problem. Forty-four state governors have refused to send voter registration information to the bizarro Trump commission, yet Sununu is eager to comply. We need a governor who is willing to work on the real problems of our state. One of our realest problems is our infrastructure, and this storm just damaged what was already deteriorating.

We need a leader. This latest crisis proves that we don’t have one.

* To be fair - it seems the Governor did go to Orford on Monday when he did the Grafton County flyover. It wasn't reported anywhere until after my deadline. 

** Follow-up - the Governor never issued a press release about the flooding. 

Published as an op-ed in the July 7, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 


Junior Mints said...

Where are those so called freedom, liberty and privacy Libertarians decrying this voter registration information being turned in. LOL, silly me. They don't care because it targets minorities.


Sugar Hill deserves what it gets. It's per capita income levels are some of the highest in the state. Par with places like Rye and Bedford. It's a snobby community that broke off from Lisbon.
It would be an interesting how Colin Van Ostern would have responded. There would a helicopter flight, Facebook updates and I'm sure he would reshuffle DRED to respond to the raging waters and media covered real statistics.
Not much to report there. The comments about Vermont. Vermont doesn't have to be concerned about damage to its infrastructure. They don't have any infrastructure to begin with. There can be no doubt Gov. Scott means well,but this can't be a substitute for the reality in this state. Vermonters want to move to New Hampshire not the other way around.

Steven Connolly

susanthe said...

Congratulations, Steven. This is the first time you've ever posted on topic. A reminder: Your off topic posts will not be published.