Updated: Heavy downpours wash out roads across Berkshires
Photo Gallery | Storm damage in the Berkshires
Cleanup operations and road repairs were underway on Thursday following the monsoon-like downpours that flooded many roadways in parts of Berkshire County on Wednesday night.
Lenox declared a state of emergency and notified the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, said Town Manager Christopher Ketchen.
“Our primary goal was to get the streets cleared and provide for public safety,” Ketchen told The Eagle. “We will be compiling cost estimates after the activity has ceased.”
Depending on MEMA's findings, the town could become eligible for state aid to help pay the cost of the cleanup.
“It was a mess out there and we're continuing the cleanup,” said Ketchen. “DPW crews were in very early in the morning [Thursday] to make roads passable and ensure public safety by removing mud and debris from the roadways.”
Ketchen said 5 to 6 inches of rain reported in Lenox Dale “was more than enough to overwhelm any infrastructure system.” He cited Lenox public safety and public works personnel “who did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances.”
In Cheshire, a portion of Windsor Road remains impassable after heavy rains blew out a culvert carrying a tributary of South Brook, Highway Superintendent Peter LeFebvre said. A portion of Route 116, near the Cheshire and Savoy town lines, remained closed as work crews investigate the safety conditions of the road.
LeFebvre estimated work on both sections of road could take up to two months.
MEMA also was on scene in Cheshire to assess damage.
No injuries were reported as the result of the weather.
Four inches of rain fell at the National Weather Service observation station at Pittsfield Municipal Airport during the five-hour period from 7 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday. That's more than one month's worth of rainfall in a brief period, and apparently set a modern-era record, according to archived NWS data.
Lenox Dale, in the valley along the Housatonic River, was hardest-hit, with 5.3 inches of rain reported by an NWS weather observer. Spotters for WRGB-TV, Channel 6, checked in with just below 4 inches in Savoy, 3.3 inches in Cheshire, 3 inches in Williamstown and Clarksburg, 2.6 inches in Lanesborough and 2.3 inches in the town of Florida as of early Thursday morning.
In Lenox, the intersection of East and Walker streets remained closed by mid-morning as road repairs continued, said senior Lenox Police Officer Timothy Sheehan. He also reported washouts and other storm-related damage on Housatonic and Crystal streets in Lenox Dale.
“The rain was never-ending,” he said. “The skies just opened up, it was amazing.”
At the corner of Walker and Elm streets, the deluge washed out a section of sidewalk as a brook that crosses underneath Walker, overflowed onto the road.
“That's the worst I've seen in 50 years,” said Frank Igo, a longtime resident whose house is adjacent to the brook. “I laid awake thinking I had water in the cellar.”
While Igo got up Thursday morning to find a dry basement, Sydney Leahey wasn't so fortunate.
“Our basement is completely flooded ... it's a disaster,” said Leahey, who rents a home almost across from the Igo residence.
Major damage was reported at The Mount in Lenox, home of the Edith Wharton Restoration. Executive Director Susan Wissler said the landscaped gardens had been destroyed and the dirt road leading to the mansion was washed-out and impassable.
The government forecasters in Albany issued a flood warning for urban areas and small streams in southwest Berkshire, but lifted it on Thursday morning as the Green River in Great Barrington fell back from flood stage.
During the height of the heavy thunderstorms that rolled through the region, the National Weather Service's spotters reported a brook overflowing on Shore Road and Lenox Road in Richmond, wires down at the Route 41 and Dublin Road intersection, also in Richmond, a house flooded on Main Street in Great Barrington, and a bridge under water in Lanesborough.
Western Massachusetts Electric Co. also reported having about 50 customers still without power in Richmond on Thursday morning.
A sinkhole was reported on Wilson Road in West Stockbridge.
Some overflow from the Green River also closed portions of Seekonk Cross Road and Pumpkin Hollow Road.
In Williamstown, a portion of Route 43 and Water Street also was closed due to a fallen tree, which has to be removed. Around 4 a.m., National Grid reported a power outage that affected approximately 239 customers in the town.
In the Central Berkshire region, there were minor washouts reported in the hilltowns surrounding Dalton.
The Pittsfield Police Department reported several weather-related incidents and accidents overnight, as portions of Barker Road, Cheshire Road and East Street were closed due to hazardous conditions.
Around 9:30 p.m., a southbound motor vehicle hit several potholes that developed on Cheshire Road near a road construction site. The vehicle reportedly hit a mailbox at 322 Cheshire Road, and came to rest on a nearby lawn. No injuries were reported and the driver was not considered at fault, according to a police report.
Accidents also took place on Dalton Avenue and East Street, but it was not yet determined weather they were weather related.
Wires were reported down on Elm Street, Partridge Road and Oak Hill Road in Pittsfield. Several manhole covers were also dislodged due to flooding on Elm Street, Brown Street and Adelaide Avenue.
Eagle staff writer Dick Lindsay and Edward Damon contributed to this report.
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