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Riverside businesses in Middlebury stave off rising waters

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Posted on September 1, 2011 |
By Andrew Stein and Ian Trombulak



sandbaggers0417.jpg
Members of the Middlebury College football team helped load up sandbags to bolster Jackson's on the River against rising river levels in downtown Middlebury Thursday afternoon. Otter Creek was expected to crest in Middlebury late Thursday night or early Friday morning. Independent photo/Ian Trombulak

The crest of the Otter Creek River is coming slowly but surely through Addison County, having hit Leicester late yesterday and now approaching downtown Middlebury. The U.S. Geological Survey projects the crest to reach Middlebury between midnight and 2 a.m. tonight.

Riverside businesses in downtown Middlebury took note of the impending crest Thursday morning and quickly began taking precautions. Co-owner of Jackson’s on the River Chris English said he and the other owners contacted Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley when they realized that the river was supposed to rise from 6.7 feet at mid-afternoon to 8.2 feet at midnight.

“I went online to check the US Geological Survey website to see where it was and what they were predicting it to be at, and we realized that a foot and a half was going to be a problem,” said English.

Hanley provided an initial load of sandbags to fortify the riverside basement entrance to the restaurant, but after that English and co-owner Craig Goldstein received help from an unusual source: the entire Middlebury College football team.

Through a connection at the college, the trouble at Jackson’s reached Panthers coach Bob Ritter while his team — back to school early for preseason — was in the weight room. He hauled them down to Bakery Lane for a different type of work out.

An initial group of a dozen or so football players were rushed to the site immediately. Within the hour, the entire team was there, forming an assembly line to pass sandbags down to the basement.

“I called the town at around 10 o’clock this morning, and the response has just been sort of building organically since then,” said English. “It’s been tremendous.”

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