It was at the time a very ordinary Tuesday morning (July 14). My bride and I had spent a ho-hum morning tending to the many groundskeeping duties that we have saddled ourselves with over the preceding 22 years of retirement.
Pruning shrubbery, watering flowerbeds and window boxes, picking up early fallen leaves, and a bunch of other “stuff” that keeps us busy most of the time.
It was getting close to lunchtime, the clouds were rolling in, and the sounds of distant thunder were audible. After the noontime repast, I decided to nap for an hour while Anita headed downstairs to the family room to turn the TV on to a bit of news and then watch her favorite and long-running soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.” I quite often razz her about it, what is it that accounts for a very well-adjusted wife, mother, and grandmother becoming involved with a bunch of ill-adjusted cockamamies who are continually getting riled up with themselves and others.
This discussion has continued for years!
I had my eyes closed, giving thought to past and future events, when the rain began. I didn’t give it much thought right away, just another thundershower, but it continued to rain harder and harder. After 10 minutes, this storm had my full attention, as I could not remember ever experiencing this intensity before.
I got up and started walking around the house to observe the situation from all angles. Looking back over the estuary, it seemed like a solid wall of water was raining down.
The vernal stream between our house and the gravel access road to the dock area was rising rapidly. As I’ve mentioned before in these tales, I have a very accurate Maximum weather station with 6-inch round brass instruments all mounted on a mahogany board hanging on the wall.
Of particular interest to me was the rain gauge, the collector of which is on a post outside the end of the house with no tree branches above. It measures in hundredths of an inch. It was accumulating so fast that it seemed as though it was being fed out of a garden hose. It was getting scary. I roused Anita out of her story stupor and asked that she help me keep track of the storm.
It didn’t take long at this rain rate to have the brook overflow its banks. The access road was becoming a disaster.
Thanks to the excellent installation of the French drain around the base of our house, constructed by Chester’s excavating company as one of his last hands-on projects before retirement over 25 years ago, not a drop showed in the downstairs.
Thanks also to a new roof completed seven years ago, with special attention paid to sealing the flashing around the center chimney (a former trouble area), no water leaked there either.
The backyard received little disruption, but the front from the road down was another matter.
The rainfall continued at a fever pitch and the rain gauge kept clicking.
We have high ceilings and no attic in our house, so raindrops are noticeable, but this was ridiculous. The crescendo from this event was mind-blowing. It sounded like a freight train rumbling through the edifice and it wouldn’t stop for 2 1/2 hours, with a total of 6.39 inches in that short time.
The strange part was how local it was. A mile either side of our section of Walpole showed only a moderate summer storm with minimal damage.
There was white water flowing down the road, pushing tons of rocks and gravel with it and demolishing grass and flowerbeds in our front property.
The hardtop driveway was washed out and undercut in many places, the worst of which was a 40-foot section that fell in on itself. Help with that is on the way, but probably not before the end of August.
In the meantime, with help from Jake, a strapping young lad from Bristol, we are in the long process of putting things back together.
Chester showed up with his Kubota tractor and helped me remove over 6 inches of stones and gravel on the lower portion of the driveway and then spent a day resurrecting the access roads to the shore from the 2-foot ruts. Quite a bit of the road ended up in the river and built up a couple of gravel beaches.
Working to remove the stones and gravel from the various plantings and clearing out same from under our propane tank is exhausting manual labor.
The sight of the road turned into a raging torrent and 4 inches of moving water cascading toward our home is something we will never forget.
We know that other folks in the area suffered worse results than us, losing a home to fire (lightning strike) and many flooded basements and ground washouts, yet it was quite a traumatic experience for us, and the workload, even with some help, has been overwhelming.
And for that reason, “Tales from Hunter’s Landing” is being forced to take what I hope will be a short hiatus. Thanks to all who keep up with my column.
(Robert H. Oberlander lives at Hunter’s Landing in Walpole.)