March 30, 2010
Photos By HHA Member Rick Prescott
Text By HHA Member Tom Helmer
The Wood River is one of the most scenic rivers in Rhode Island. It is known as a wonderful river for a canoe trip. Occasionally you will have to portage around the occasional mill dam, part of our Colonial legacy. Rick and his family live on the shore of the river as it makes a wide bend to the left, pools, and then plunges over the five foot mill dam across the entire river. Then the river eases under the big bridge, easily clearing six feet above the water.
The photos in the first display begin with two B&W pictures of the Woodville Mill dam and it’s mill buildings as seen in 1930. Then we advance 83 years to 2013, to see the road make a turn to the left to cross over the new rebuilt bridge, two shots of the old stonework hidden behind the summer time foliage, and then shots of the mill dam, (The old Mill Houses are long gone), a Painted Turtle basking on the reeds above the sleepy water, a look back across the bridge from where we came, a look upstream towards the mill dam, and a look downstream from the other side of the bridge.
All that you see is the picture of a lazy river in mid summer…
In March of 2010, the area had a thaw with snow melt, and several rain storms hit us over the next week in succession, saturating the ground. The swamps and marshes were filled, Tomaquag Brook was at it’s Spring high water mark. It was the perfect set up for the big rainstorm that pounded the area.
When that storm on the 29th and 30th of March hit, basements immediately began to flood. Streets had standing water, then the brooks topped the roads, cutting off transportation,
The rivers were scary, but spectacular. It was rare for the water to get so high. No one knew we were only at the beginning of “The Flood” in this second set of five slide show pictures.
The flood waters rose higher. A sense of fear becomes tangible in the pictures from here on out.
Upstream, the Blue Pond Dam burst, and all of that additional water raced down the Wood River, joined the continuing steady rain. There was dread that the high dam at Alton, downstream from Woodville would also burst, scouring Hopkinton further. Further downstream in the watershed, the confluence of swollen rivers and brooks were magnifying the damage in Westerly, whose center city was already flooded by the larger Pawcatuck River. Cars were flooded to the windshields, and an emergency evacuation using boats to pick up those marooned in their own homes was under way down there.
More bursting dams were expected, but there was nothing to be done but wait.
The sun finally came out, but basements stayed flooded for 10 days more, till the water table fell. Many bridges were out. The Woodville bridge was closed as being unsafe.
The routes for Emergency Services, Police, Fire and Ambulance, all had to be modified.
Neighbors were cut off, and the bus routes to the region’s schools were altered drastically.
The bridge was closed for many months, then came the rebuilding of the road, the demolition of the ruined bridge deck, and the reconstruction of the Woodville Bridge. Traffic returned to normal, and for a month, everyone appreciated how useful bridges over rivers are, they they became invisible again.
Amazingly, the transformation started in Rick’s front yard! This cut down his picture taking travel time immensely, plus, you get to see the last of his 2010 Cosmos flowers in his front driveway garden.
Once the reconstruction job got underway, it was fascinating to see the thoroughness of the process. You can see it on the next page, or return to the Site Map and select “Rebuilding Woodville Bridge”
It is worth it just to see the Cardi Corporation crew busy and progressing in every picture of the work.