Red Cross volunteers, Anna Mary Zigmann, Linda Nordman and Russell Weeks, are ready for flood and landslide evacuees at Lebanon High School Tuesday night. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)
Volunteers come to aid of displaced Lebanon residents after floods
LEBANON – All week the rivers in the Upper Valley region have been like foaming cups of coffee: the slightest jostle and they'll spill right over, said Red Cross volunteer Anna Mary Zigmann of South Royalton, Vt.
And that's just what the Mascoma River did Monday and Tuesday.
Tuesday afternoon, the Red Cross Central Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Chapter set up an emergency shelter in Lebanon High School for those displaced by flooding and landslides.
Usually the chapter sets up a shelter in the Hartford High School across the river in Vermont, but this time the emergency is centralized in Lebanon.
Monday night about 20 residents of Rivermere, an affordable housing complex on Slayton Hill Road, were evacuated after the Mascoma River ran over and caused a landslide, said Bruce Pollack, Deputy Chief of the Red Cross Central Vermont & the New Hampshire Valley Chapter.
Tuesday afternoon intense rainfall caused more landslides that completely washed away the road. The remaining residents of the road had to hike over the landslide to evacuate.
About 20 to 30 more Rivermere residents were bused to the shelter at the high school. One woman was barefoot, the volunteers said.
"I have a friend who lives on Slayton Hill and when I called him he was at the bottom and said I don't know if my house is here or not," said volunteer Terry Grisby of Lebanon.
The Rivermere residents were given coffee, snacks and blankets and then were bused to a hotel.
The Twin Pines Housing Trust that owns Rivermere is putting all of its residents up in hotels during the ordeal, said Linda Nordman, who is the Red Cross volunteer coordinator for the area as well as a Twin Pines board member.
"The Trust has been really good in providing for residents of Rivermere," Nordman said.
The affordable housing complex had just opened and had held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, she said.
But the entire road, including private residences, was evacuated by city officials Tuesday as well as nearby Dulac Street after the landslide worsened, so the shelter was remaining open for the night, though there were no displaced people in need of the shelter at that time.
The Red Cross volunteers were ready with a full shelter in case of any evacuees came in.
The group was diligent about being prepared and had Hurricane Irene, which devastated the Upper Valley region in August 2011, on their minds.
"It has been Hurricane Irene high all week," Zigmann said of area rivers including White River in Vermont and the Connecticut River that divides the states.
Many of the volunteers joined the Red Cross during Irene and were deeply moved by working with evacuees that had lost everything in the floods caused by Irene, they said.
"I started with Irene and that bug just bit me. It bit me hard," Nordman said.
Even though the shelter was empty Tuesday night, except for volunteers and school staff, the pounding raid outside made Nordman think it was likely it would be needed, she said.
Tuesday night, Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos, Jr. issued a warning to resident to use extreme caution while traveling on all city and state roads.
Numerous city roads are partially or completely impassable, he said.
He also reminded resident to not drive over roadways that are covered with water.