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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Crews begin installing barrier at damaged Bozrah dam

    Crews guide industrial-sized sandbags into place as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews guide industrial-sized sandbags into place as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of sandbags, will allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews move industrial-sized sandbags as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews move industrial-sized sandbags as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of industrial-sized sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Parris Duff sweeps water and mud out of the basement of his wife Heidi Duff’s hair salon Details Hair Studio at 16 New London Turnpike in Norwich on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The area was flooded by the Yantic River in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The high-water mark from Wednesday’s storm is written on the wall at Heidi Duff’s hair salon Details Hair Studio at 16 New London Turnpike in Norwich on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The area was flooded by the Yantic River in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Parris Duff cleans water out of the basement of his wife Heidi Duff’s hair salon Details Hair Studio at 16 New London Turnpike in Norwich on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The area was flooded by the Yantic River in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Water damage in the basement of Heidi Duff’s hair salon Details Hair Studio at 16 New London Turnpike in Norwich on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The area was flooded by the Yantic River in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews move industrial-sized sandbags as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of the sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Crews guide industrial-sized sandbags into place as they install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of sandbags, will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed in Wednesday’s storm. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Contractors prepare to install a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam site on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, to allow for the inspection of the damaged Bozrah structure. (John Penney/The Day)
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    Bozrah ― Crews on Thursday morning began installing a temporary barrier at the Fitchville Pond Dam to allow for the inspection of the damaged structure ahead of Saturday’s incoming storm.

    Contractors and heavy equipment were staged across from Stockhouse Road where they expected to spend the next two days constructing a cofferdam, a waterproof enclosure made of industrial-sized sandbags that will safely allow inspectors to view a section of dam that failed Wednesday.

    Charles Lee, assistant director of dam safety for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the cofferdam’s placement will also relieve water pressure being exerted on the approximately 180-year-old dam.

    “Trees will be cleared today to allow a crane to get in there and hoist the sandbags into place in the water,” Lee said on Thursday. “We hope to have that cofferdam in place by Friday.”

    Fitchville Pond Dam

    Norwich casts a wary eye upstream

    Crews

    prepare to

    Fitchville

    inspect the

    1840s-era

    Pond Dam

    Fitchville

    Pond Dam

    Yantic River Dam

    Shetucket

    River

    Yantic

    River

    Falls Mill Upper

    Bozrah

    and Lower Dams

    Norwich

    = dam

    Thames

    River

    Scott Ritter/The Day | Data: CT DEEP

    Fitchville

    Pond Dam

    Yantic

    River

    Dam

    Crews prepare

    to inspect the

    1840s-era

    Fitchville

    Pond Dam

    Yantic

    River

    Falls Mill Upper

    and Lower Dams

    Norwich

    Bozrah

    Thames

    = dam

    River

    Scott Ritter/The Day | Data: CT DEEP

    Leaks discovered in the left abutment of the Yantic River dam led officials to issue evacuation orders to about a dozen area businesses on Wednesday.

    Under state order, the dam’s owner, Seymour’s Sand and Stone of Bozrah, laid a pile of support stones as a stop-gap measure next to the damaged section of the dam and Bozrah firefighters monitored the dam overnight.

    Bozrah First Selectman Glenn Pianka on Thursday said the river water had receded and there were no further reports of dam leakage.

    State officials said the dam owners have a history of not complying with state regulations to inspect the dam every two years and have not filed a recent required emergency action plan.

    Pianka said he expected certain “pressure would be exerted” on the dam’s owner to address the barrier’s condition, which is listed as a “high hazard potential” structure, the worst of five categories that indicate the potential for a dam failure, after the DEEP inspection concludes.

    Seymour Adelman, owner of Seymour’s Sand and Stone, could not be reached to comment on Thursday.

    As the cofferdam work progressed, town and state officials were tracking another round of heavy rain expected to hit the area on Saturday morning.

    “The only thing in our favor about that storm is we don’t expect it to be as heavy as there’s no more snowmelt,” Pianka said.

    The National Weather Service is calling for up to 2 inches of rain on Friday night for the Norwich area with an additional chance of showers Saturday morning.

    Assessing flood damage in Norwich

    A few miles away in Norwich, sandbags were still piled up in front of stores located in the flood-prone Norwichtown area.

    At the Details Hair Studio off New London Turnpike, owners Heidi and Parris Duff were assessing the damage their store sustained after the Yantic River crested its banks and flowed into the Norwichtown Commons plaza on Wednesday.

    On an exterior wall of the salon, Parris Duff had etched a “high water” mark about 5 feet from the silty ground and marked it with Wednesday’s date.

    Inside, Heidi Duff took inventory of the water-blighted space. She pointed to a portable “door dam” barrier she bought in 2021 but kept boxed until this week.

    “By Wednesday morning, the waters were crashing over the barrier, through the door and coming up to my thighs,” she said.

    The Duffs moved into the storefront in 2009 and recently completed a basement renovation. The couple planned to wash and rinse the floors on Thursday ahead their landlord conducting a more thorough clean-up job after the Saturday storm.

    “Then we’ll get a dumpster and start pitching equipment and going through the rental equipment we got for our hairdressing classes,” Heidi Duff said.

    The Yantic River levels hit 14.2 feet in Norwich on Wednesday, approaching the all-time record of 14.9 feet, as parking lots began to resemble swimming pools.

    On Thursday, the standing water was gone, replaced by a thick slurry of mud and leaves. A trio of ducks placidly paddled in a section of river fronting the Stop & Shop Supermarket off Town Street.

    Mayor Peter Nystrom said the river levels were expected to continue dropping Thursday night.

    “Which is important as we’re expected to get more rain over the weekend,” he said. “And we’re grateful we’ve got a couple of days before that happens – and there’s no more snowmelt. There were towns upstream that had up to 6 inches of snow to contend with.”

    Fire Chief Tracy Montoya, the city’s emergency management director, said the river level was at 6.4 feet as of 10:45 a.m. on Thursday and expected to decline over the next 24 to 30 hours.

    “Then it’s predicted to pick-up again Friday night and Saturday morning and peak at 7.5 feet, which is well-below the action stage,” he said, noting 11 feet marks the “major flood stage” for the river.

    Flooding concerns prompted the evacuation of roughly 500 residents and businesses on Wednesday from the Yantic River flood zone. That order was lifted Wednesday afternoon. Nystrom said the city employs a reverse-911 system to automatically alert residents to such emergencies.

    “That same system let people know when it was safe to go back home,” Nystrom said.

    He said the city is “keenly aware” of the damage suffered by local business owners, including those in a West Town Street plaza that houses the popular Dixie Donuts shop.

    “The first step is for businesses to contact their insurance companies, but I plan to go out myself and gauge the damage,” he said, adding U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, is expected to tour the damage on Friday.

    Nystrom said Norwich officials are keeping a close eye on the cofferdam construction and praised Pianka’s response to the emergency.

    “Our towns did the right thing yesterday,” he said.

    j.penney@theday.com

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