Officials meet, assess damage to Plymouth area after ice jam causes NH river to flood
PLYMOUTH — Now that flood waters around Plymouth State University have mostly receded, area officials are taking a closer look at how to make sure dozens of student vehicles don't get stranded again.
Gov. Chris Sununu met with several of those officials Tuesday, including from the Department of Safety, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental services, local police and fire departments and Plymouth town administrators.
"What I'd like to talk about is what else needs to be done moving forward," Sununu said. "Obviously when you see fifty cars buried underwater, next to a brand new facility, there’s more work to be done."
The meeting started with an overview with what exactly happened, namely, a blockade of ice in the Pemigewasset River downstream of Plymouth blocked water from flowing freely, causing severe flooding on and around campus.
But the area is no stranger to high waters. Sununu estimated it's seen at least 50 serious flood events over the last 100 years.
"We need to start putting the pieces in place to help mitigate this," he said. "You're never going to completely get rid of it. Whatever we do, we're just making a better situation for everybody down the road."
During Tuesday's meeting, Sununu asked officials to create a bulleted list of short- and long-term solutions and to report back within the next 30 to 45 days. These ideas could be as big as addressing infrastructure issues, or as simple as communicating flood risk areas better with the community.
"If we’re looking 20 years down the road or 10 years down the road, maybe those are the things that we at least have to make sure we’re keeping in mind as we’re making some of the long term planning decisions," Sununu said about the request.
Though the ice jam that caused the weekend flooding have drifted away, there is a threat of more forming as temperatures keep warming and snow melts.
Sununu acknowledged that fact and emphasized members of the community should be prepared.
The latest flood happened overnight and in a matter of a few hours. It stranded more than 50 cars in a Plymouth State parking lot behind the school's ice arena. Students were frustrated with the school's response, saying by the time they were notified about the flooding, it was too late to move their cars.
Plymouth State President Donald Birx said his office has received many calls from concerned students, saying it was very difficult to contact every student since the flooding happened overnight.
However, he added he was very impressed by the community response as crews extricated every car from the lot by Monday evening.
"Anybody hates this kind of thing to happen," Birx said. "Students have taken it in different ways, but I mean, we really worked hard to try ... I mean, the dedication of people to get things out of here and then to react as fast as we could given the situation, I think was really great."