CHESHIRE, Mass. — A section of Route 8 was closed for more than an hour early Friday afternoon after Kitchen Brook overflowed its banks and covered the highway with large chunks of ice.
Communities across the region have been dealing with flooding caused by the spike in temperatures and heavy rain breaking up more than a foot of snow and ice that had covered the Berkshires over the last couple weeks. The National Weather Service has posted flash flood warnings for both Northern and Southern Berkshire County through tomorrow morning — when, believe it or not, another blast of cold air will blow through the county.
The flooding over South Street came without warning on the heavily used north/south connector. Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said she'd been told one motorist had crossed the bridge immediately north of Lanesborough and had seen the wave of water and ice in his rearview mirror.
The release of an ice jam farther up the stream left chunks of ice up to a yard long and almost a foot thick were carried down by the rushing waters, hit the century-old bridge and spilled over the road and across the parking lot of the Cheshire Liquor Center on the west side. More water and ice flowed across the lower elevation on the east side toward homes and back into the brook.
Second Assistant Fire Chief Jason Mendonca said Village Truck Sales sent a tow truck to pull out two vehicles that were stuck on top of ice chunks and couldn't get traction.
Traffic was backed up for more than a mile in each direction with no way to detour them around the pinch neck at the bridge.
Cheshire firefighters, police and the town's Department of Public Works, state police and a crew from the state Department of Transportation were at the scene. Workers cleared grates to get the water flowing away and a front loader was used to scoop up the field ice.
Francesconi said the flooding had occurred just minutes after the town had declared a state of emergency after noontime because of reports of possible flooding damage to the roads.
The 10-foot concrete and steel bridge, built in 1901, was last reconstructed in 1926 and inspected in 2015. MassDOT did a preliminary inspection before reopening it at about 1:35 p.m. A more thorough inspection was planned for later in the afternoon. The state owns the bridge.
The lower portion of Lime Street in Adams was reduced to one-lane at about the same time to deal with flooding from Southwick Brook. The waterway runs on the north side of Lime street and during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, took out the Charles Street bridge.
Adams firefighters also spent hours draining basements on Pine Street. Fire departments across the area were being called to drain flooded basements as the rain continued and temperatures rose into the 60s.
According to a Facebook post by town of Williamstown, an ice jam at the Broad Brook railroad trestle flooded the entrance to Steinerfilm. A DPW army truck transported employees to a waiting Council on Aging van and police cruisers to be taken to Town Hall to make arrangements for rides home. The railroad was contacted to take corrective actions to clear the ice jam.
Motorists are warned to turn around when they encounter flooded roads. According to the National Weather Service, most flood deaths occur in vehicles.