Once Upon a Time on Stone Pond Road

So far, the summer of 2021 has been an eventful time at our house in Marlow, New Hampshire. This is the house that Mary Ann christened, “Little House” when we bought it in 1984. The events affecting our summer included an inordinate amount of rainfall, a contract to install spray insulation to the bottom of the house that turned into the job from hell and a hot tub spa on the fritz.

July was the third wettest on record in NH averaging about 14 inches across the state and as much as 19 inches in Monadnock County in Southeastern NH. The July deluge was capped off by four inches of rain that fell on July 29th. This storm brought with it flash flooding that caused serious damage along the Route 10 corridor flooding roads and houses in towns that included Gilsum, Marlow, Lempster, Goshen and Newport.

We first learned about the severity of the flooding on the morning of July 30 when our handyman, Don, called on my cellphone. He asked: “Are you still in New York?”

“Actually, Don, we are on Interstate 95 on our way up to Marlow.”

He went on to explain that Route 10 and Route 123 were closed, and Stone Pond Road was cut off to traffic. Don can be a bit of a doom and gloom kind of guy, but this sounded serious. He promised to check on current conditions and give us an update within an hour.

We decided to continue our journey, but we chose to stop at the nearest service area on I-95 that was just east of Stamford, CT. Mary Ann decided to call Aaron’s, a local lunch and ice cream shop in Marlow while I checked Google maps on my iPhone. The map revealed two interesting findings: There was heavy traffic in the vicinity of Little House and the road was out between Lempster and Goshen.

The woman who Mary Ann spoke to at Aaron’s said that Route 10 was open in Marlow. Don  called back at the same time to confirm her update. Happy and satisfied, we continued our drive. It took us over six hours to reach Marlow, a trip that once upon a time could be completed in four-and one-half hours. Such is the increased traffic in 2021.

We saw our initial indication of the severity of the storm as we crossed the first viaduct on Route 10 south of Gilsum. This bridge permits the Ashuelot River to pass under the road. A rocky stretch, the water was moving along rapidly with a volume that looked to be greater than any spring runoff that I have seen since we first came here.

The second came as we approached Marlow and entered a flat area south of town. The river had overflowed its banks and one house just below the dam was almost surrounded by water. The water level was no more than two feet from overtopping the Marlow dam and we later learned that a voluntary evacuation had been ordered for fear the dam could fail.

The road to Lake Washington was closed by a cruiser manned by two part-time peace officers. Our local school, The John D. Perkins Academy was surrounded by emergency vehicles as it had been commandeered as a command center and a relief center for evacuees.

The road between Lempster and Goshen remained closed and didn’t reopen until Saturday morning.

One of the reasons we pressed on to reach Little House was that our visit had already been delayed two weeks because of the contractor’s difficulties in spraying the new insulation on the underside of the house. Originally, this area had been protected by bundles of insulation that had been stapled onto the wooden surfaces. Over the years, gravity had prevailed and many of these bundles had dropped to the ground. We had contracted for all these bundles to be removed and that a crew spray five inches of foam insulation to replace it. The work was scheduled to be done on July 14 but was delayed one day by a broken nozzle.

On the morning of July 15, the crew confirmed that they had finished spraying a third of the foam and expected to finish by later in the day.

The next day, they advised that the rest of the foam contained in a new barrel was defective, but that they would finish the spraying the next day. That attempt failed too, again because of defective material.

As the clock ticked forward and we flipped over the calendar, we learned two significant facts, the foam could not be sprayed when it was raining or water content in the air was above 18% and we couldn’t occupy the house for at least 24 hours after spraying was finished, and ideally, not for 36 hours.

Every attempt to finish the work had to be aborted for one reason or another. Finally, we cried uncle to Crystal, a customer representative in the contractors Nashua office on Tuesday, July 28. We explained that it had to be completed by the next day. She worked her magic, and a manager assembled a crew that day and completed spraying by day’s end.

One ordeal remained: the broken hot tub. Steve, the repair guy from Clearwater Spa Sales and Service solved that problem on Wednesday, August 4. He was sure that he had a spare control panel in stock in the shop and, with a bit of luck, it would replace the broken panel. Fortunately, he was right, and, in no time, it was up and running.

After Steve removed the old control panel, he explained that mice had destroyed the old unit by nibbling on the wires!

And so it goes. Things returned to normal…so far!

On the Outside Looking In will not publish on August 18 and will return on August 25