Date: 2021-09-03 15:45:00
At the site of a washed-out railroad bank in Redding Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont and other state officials said building resilience against drenching storms like Hurricane Ida is a priority, but the long-term outlook is bleak without action on climate change.
Metro North lines in the Danbury area were shut down after damage to century-old railroad beds that officials said were not designed to withstand the kind of deluge that soaked the state on Wednesday and Thursday. State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said state residents can expect such storms to continue and intensify in coming years unless carbon emissions are reduced.
“This is the mildest year we are going to see going forward,” Dykes said. “These changes are going to accelerate.”
Continued flooding from Ida drove the Farmington River over its banks, closing roads in Simsbury Friday morning. Swollen from about a half a foot of rain Wednesday and Thursday, the river was expected to continue to rise Friday before beginning to recede.
The National Weather Service extended a flood warning for Simsbury through Saturday morning, saying the Farmington River had reached 14.4 feet with moderate flooding at 11:30 a.m. Flood stage is 12 feet.
“At 15.0 feet, Moderate flooding begins with numerous roads and residences affected. Evacuations may be needed along various roads in Avon and Simsbury, including Riverside Road in Simsbury. Flooding also begins to affect low lying sections of Bloomfield and East Granby,” an advisory from the weather service said.
In Simsbury, the flooding was expected to peak today and recede below flood stage by midnight, according to NWS.
“Do not move barricades or cones. Do not go through closed roads,” First Selectman Eric Wellman advised on Facebook. “These have been closed for everyone’s safety. Never drive through flooded roadways — you do not know the condition of the road under the water.”
In Manchester, public works crews built a wall of concrete blocks to channel a brook that had split and then flooded Charter Oak Park. Public Works Director Tim Bockus said hard rains from Tropical Storm Henri eroded an embankment, and flooding through the breach continued with Ida. Two softball fields and part of a walking and biking trail were destroyed and more damage is expected to be uncovered, Bockus said.
A more permanent fix will be necessary, he said. Asked if there was a flaw in the drainage systems in the area, Bockus said, “I don’t think anybody could have contemplated the intensity of that type of rain for that short a duration.”
But such storms are expected to become more frequent, and infrastructure such as railroad embankments, roads and culverts will have to be built to new standards, said Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti, who was out with the governor in Redding. Federal funding the state expects to receive, Giulietti said, include $5 billion over the next five years for highway and railroad improvements and part of a $30 billion package for the Northeast rail corridor.
But Dykes said no engineering can prevent damage from rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes and more periods of intense rain, sometimes called “rain bombs,” among other effects of climate change.
“These impacts are already baked into our climate system and will have a disproportionate burden on our low-income and environmental justice communities,” DEEP spokesman Will Healey said. “We are already planning for a changed Connecticut now and look forward to working with our local, state and federal partners to ensure our communities and infrastructure are resilient.”
In the immediate future, state officials issued a warning about swimming, fishing and using paddleboards where high waters released untreated sewage, particularly in urban areas such as Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, Middletown, Meriden, Wallingford, Stamford, Norwalk, Norwich, and the greater New Haven area within 48 hours of the end of the rainfall.
Service on Metro North’s Danbury and New Canaan lines has been suspended due to storm damage. On the Waterbury Branch, substitute busing will run according to the existing weekend busing schedule. A railroad official said the Danbury line should be restored Saturday and all rail service is expected to resume by Tuesday.
Jesse Leavenworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org