Residents dig out along Route 103
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | July 11,2013
Photo by Sandi Switzer
Jennifer and William Lethbridge’s rental home on Route 103.
WALLINGFORD — A seven-months-pregnant woman and her family won’t soon forget fleeing their home when nearly two feet of mud, rocks and debris washed down a hillside into their yard on Route 103 after a heavy downpour Tuesday.
“This was worse than Irene,” Jennifer Lethbridge said Wednesday.
“The whole mountain came down on us,” added her husband, William Lethbridge.
Water filled their basement, while mud several inches deep was deposited in the adjacent barn. The home was spared, but a lawnmower, chain saw, yard equipment and many other items stored in the barn sustained mud and water damage.
The couple, along with their 4-year-old daughter and dog, fled the rented home as flood waters swept through the area. Jennifer Lethbridge indicated the sudden rise of the water in the yard caught the family by surprise
“When we left, the water was up to our knees and the dog had to swim to the car,” she explained Wednesday afternoon as her husband and property owners George and Donna Chamberland and a friend worked nearby.
The group was knee deep in mud trying to clear a culvert filled with toys, a garbage can, chopped wood and even a child’s swimming pool.
The mudslide swamped a vehicle behind the barn and was strong enough to move a hot tub more than 20 feet.
“Luckily, my daughter’s toy car got caught up in the swing set or it would have washed away,” Jennifer Lethbridge said.
The couple indicated it would likely be a week before they could return to their home. Donna Chamberland said they did not have flood insurance on the property.
Next door neighbor Robert Kapusta, who has lived in his Route 103 single-story home for a year, said the area was hit by about 3.8 inches of rain in an hour.
“I didn’t get any water in the basement, just a big mess in the yard,” he said.
About six inches of mud filled Kapusta’s back yard right up to his foundation. His vegetable garden resembled a pond and large rocks and debris littered the entire property. Once the yard dries out, Kapusta said he would use a backhoe to push all the rocks and mud back onto the hillside behind his home.
District transportation administrator Nelson Blanchard indicated the residents of the area were harder hit than the roads.
“They made out worse than we did. A couple of those houses have about 8 inches of soup around them,” he said.
Blanchard noted state highway crews spent a portion of Wednesday cleaning up two areas — a section south of the train trestle along Route 103 near the impacted homes and another site approximately three miles away.
“There was a box culvert that couldn’t take all the water. It eroded the inlet enough so that we had to close the road down to one lane all night,” he said.
He expected all work on the road to be completed by Wednesday in order to open both lanes. Blanchard said drainage systems were incapable of handling nearly 4 inches of rain an hour.
“There’s absolutely nothing you can do in that case. Hopefully, we’ll get through today, tonight and part of tomorrow, and then it looks like we’re going to work our way out of the rain for awhile,” he added.