Looking Back at Irene: Road Woes

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Above, the former Briggsville Dam section after Irene. At left, the celebration marking the dam's removal at the same spot and the dam during the 1948 flood, courtesy George Betourney.
When the Briggsville Dam was removed in early 2011, the town envisioned a quiet place for picnics, fishing and watching the North Branch gently glide by.

That all changed when Irene blew into town and scoured an extra 3 feet out of the carefully crafted riverbed and wiped away the picnic area and a good chunk of the banking along the old Strong-Hewat mill building.

Oh, and took out about 100 feet of Route 8.

Michael Canales, the town's former adminstrator and emergency management director, thinks it could have been worse.

Not too many years before, a swollen river had overflowed the banks near the dam and spread to the foundations on nearby Carson Avenue and took out the parking lot at what's now the Cascade mill. An image from 1948 show the river spreading to River Road as well.

If the dam was still there, said Canales, "I think you would have seen major damage to the houses in that area, and houses on Carson Avenue and the mill - instead of the damage happening to the banks of the mill it would have happened to the mill itself."

Still, the small town and its hardworking town officials, volunteer firefighters, police and highway crews spent a long day trying to avert floods and block off dangerously undermined roadways.

Canales remembers getting on the road around 6 a.m. to check the town; by 9, the emergency command center was fully staffed amd activated at the fire station.

"It was about 8 when the calls started coming in and then things started to rapidly go downhill," he said. "The big call came a little after noontime that River Road is vanishing."

Every pump was deployed, every piece of equipment on the road. When they weren't pumping out basements they were at the highway garage filling thousands of sandbags. And watching roads disappear.

"It was just constant," said Canales. "You never felt like you were on top of things just things were continuing to go and go. ... as soon you got a crew back — dry them off, get some food into them and where're they going next."

The major impact would be damage on River Road, Daniels and East Road. The start of school was delayed because bus routes had be redrawn and town officials focused on getting Daniels Road open a priority. The state would step in to repair River Road, which cost about $10 million.

But even as residents on the east side of the river were forced to make long detours to get there from here, Clarksburg became a major connector in getting materials to and from Vermont, which was hit far worse by the storm.

The final repairs — to the East Road Bridge and Gates Avenue — should be completed this fall. But the configuration off the river near where the old dam will be a potent reminder of the power of the water.

"I remember standing up on the hill and watching somebody up near the river, on the other side where the old mill is, taking photos and not realizing that the banks all around him were collapsing," said Canales. "We were waving our hands trying to get his attention ... a tree to the person's left fell into the river and the guy started running away from the edge of the river."

It was with relief that they watched him retreat from danger; if he'd fallen, there was little that could be done.

"When the rocks are hitting the river so loud you swear it's thunder you know that that water is moving," said Canales.
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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 12-18

Next Thursday, July 18 is 3rd Thursday: Food & Drink!
July's 3rd Thursday celebrates the city's cuisine, with more than a dozen food vendors popping up at the celebration, along with the two dozen brick-and-mortar restaurants that dot North Street. There will be almost 100 vendors in all! 
3rd Thursday's presenting sponsor, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, will be offering FREE snow cones at Palace Park. The Boy Scouts of America will be bringing its rock climbing wall, and Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness will offer FREE Zumba in Park Square. 
Entertainment will be provided by Berkshire Bateria, Jacob's Pillow and Music in Common, plus enjoy a sneak peak at Barrington Stage and Ragtag Theatre's  Hansel and Gretel and Berkshire Theatre Group's Shrek The Musical. 5-8 p.m.
The Let's Go Pink Art Exhibition is a cancer awareness exhibit that will be on view at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield throughout October, 2019. The opening reception will be Friday, Oct. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as part of that month's First Friday Artswalk. A portion of all sales will benefit two local organizations: 20% of sales to BTG PLAYS!, 15% of sales to BMC Integrative Health Program's intuitive painting class for cancer patients, and the other 65% to the artist. Submissions will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 6. All artists will be notified of acceptance on or before Sept. 9. For more information, please email the Let's Go Pink 2019 team at auntsessy1@gmail.com.
100 Years of Nat King ColeCelebrate the centennial birthday of the unforgettable Nat King Cole with timeless songs and intimate stories told and sung by two-time Grammy nominee Clint Holmes, accompanied by award-winning pianist and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr. Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company. 
FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Hunks: The Show at The A | FRI Lita Williams at Hotel on North | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | FRI Jessica Wilson at Rusty Anchor | SAT Food for Thought Dinner w/Simon Winchester at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party at Polish Falcons | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Dan Gingras at Rusty Anchor | MON Berkshire Athenaeum Book Club at Hotel on North | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Green Drinks at J. Allen's | WED Live on the Lake: Shyne at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Lady Di & The Dukes at Mazzeo's | THU Fabrizio & The Fever at Rainbow | THU The Picky B's at Mission

Explore the science of YOU during this annual celebration of science, invention and sensory fun! Explore the brain, transform into a germ, follow the life of a sneeze and more. Don't miss the grand finale at 7:15 p.m. Berkshire Museum. FREE, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at Berkshire Children & Families | SAT Pop-up Play Day at Berkshire Museum | SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Sensory-friendly Screening: Incredibles 2 at Berkshire Museum SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON+ Learn to Code at Miss Hall's School TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Circus Minimus at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Project SpaceCRAFT at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Screening of Wall-E at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Solar System Paint & Snack at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Gallery Scavenger Hunts at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum
SAT Restorative Yoga w/Live Music at BYDF
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