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.
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.
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.”
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.