ROCHESTER — Residents of Rochester, one of 13 communities isolated for five days by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, were well under way with clean-up efforts late Thursday afternoon as Route 125 over Middlebury Gap to Route 100 was opened for emergency vehicles and vital traffic late Wednesday.
Route 73 over Brandon Gap remained closed to vehicular traffic Thursday, but Rochester-based ECS Excavating was putting in the last vital link — a temporary bridge spanning a 50-foot section over the creek along the road — as darkness fell Thursday. That will get residents on the west side of the White River a way out of their isolation.
The road was open to traffic for a limited time early morning and late afternoon Friday, said ECS owner Charles Smith, who was working for the state to get the road re-opened. Smith’s business is located in that isolated section of Rochester, and fortunately his heavy equipment was on that side of Route 73 and available to immediately start repairing the road. Smith said the road would likely be closed to all but emergency traffic throughout the day so the major repairs necessary could be made.
“If we didn’t close it throughout the day, we’d never be able to get any work done,” he said late Thursday at the site of the bridge repair.
A personal inspection Thursday evening of Route 73 from the Goshen turnoff on the west side of Brandon Gap to Rochester (via mountain bike) found the road in passable shape up to the top of Brandon Gap, but with numerous obstacles and gaping holes in parts of one lane where the asphalt was missing. On the east side of the gap, the road was fine for the top couple of miles, but downed trees and missing asphalt on one side of the road or the other presented hazards.
About three miles from the top, the damage became significant. A 12-foot-diameter culvert was washed out requiring the installation of a temporary bridge, followed by three-quarters of a mile of road surface that had been devastated; but a single-lane dirt road was passable Thursday night.
On down the road to Route 100, there were at least eight other significant sections (from 100 feet long to a couple hundred yards) where the asphalt road was missing and a temporary dirt road had been created for restricted access. A four-wheel-drive Subaru might make it with care, but low-clearance sedans would be problematic.
Meanwhile, Central Vermont Public Service crews were re-stringing downed power lines to the cheers of those stranded residents. Power was reconnected to most parts of the area Thursday evening.