The Power of Water

by Lynne Ober

Albuquerque Avenue washes away.

The power of raging waters is difficult to comprehend until it is seen.  In the aftermath of the torrential rains flooding our state, people are emerging into the sunshine to see the devastation that water can cause, but the overall assessment is that Hudson and Litchfield endured remarkably well.

Parts of both towns were flooded, causing evacuations and revealing problems as waters recede, but no one died; no homes were permanently destroyed and little structural damage occurred.

The worst structural damage occurred along Albuquerque Avenue.  The raging water overwhelmed the Nesenkeag Brook culvert that runs under Albuquerque, eroded the soil under the road and ultimately washed out the road and left behind a twenty foot deep hole.

Voters in Litchfield have for the past two years voted down monies needed to repair this culvert, but whether those repairs would have saved this section of the road is unknown. 

“We were really lucky,” said Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield.  “With a river running the length of the town, we did have water in some houses, but no deaths and no homes washed away.”

Litchfield set up an emergency operations center at the Fire Station so that everyone could coordinate efforts.  “If you set up a mobile station, you tend to focus only on the area where you are and not the whole picture,” said Schofield.

One of the lessons that we should have learned from Katrina, was that during and immediately after a disaster, you are likely to be on your own and need to be prepared to deal with issues.  “We didn’t call for any mutual aid because we knew every town was feeling the same pressures,” said Schofield, who credited the fire fighters and police officers who worked around the clock. 

The Litchfield Fire Department had to don their scuba gear and secure some in-ground propane tanks that were under water and at risk.  They helped with the voluntary evacuation along Naticook; they went to Concord and got sand bags to install in Litchfield; they pumped basements and like the Energizer Bunny, they kept on ticking.

Hudson Fire Department uses boat to rescue Dora and Henry Gagne from their Pooles Street home.

Despite efforts to shore up the ground around the culvert on Albuquerque, the water finally won a major battle, “but no one was hurt,” said Schofield.  “That’s the really important thing.  Motorists are going to be inconvenienced, but we are all alive and safe.”

Last night with fire fighters exhausted from the on-going struggle and with the rain stopped, Schofield called the state emergency operation.  Two Humvees and four National Guardsmen were dispatched to secure the Albuquerque Avenue washout during the night hours.  “They had great attitudes and were very happy to help us,” said Schofield.  “We finally all got some sleep.”

Although McQuesten Farms was flooded, the family has weathered the flood with good humor typical of hardy New Englanders.

Christy McQuesten said that she’d never seen the water so high and neither had her family members.  “We are one of the lowest places along 3A.”

“Six of our greenhouses flooded and they were filled with plants.  We had guys who scuba dive and own wet suits, suited up and dragging plants out.  The plants actually floated,” she laughed.  “Although the water is receding, we are going to leave the plants out.  That was a lot of work to move them.”

The McQuestens had planted 14,000 tomato plants and they don’t know how they are.  “Tomato plants like a lot of water,” grinned Christy, “so they might be ok, but it is too mucky for us to get over there and look at them.”

The established strawberry fields at McQuesten Farm are slowing emerging from the flood.  “We can see the plants and they are all green.  They are budded out and should be ok.  We planted one new field with strawberry plants and we don’t know how they have fared.  They didn’t have much root base and few leaves.”

Fields had also been planted with carrots, beets and corn.  “We don’t know if the seed rotted or if it will sprout,” Christy stated.  “It will be a couple of weeks before we know about the seed and whether it will sprout or not.”

Christy expressed concerns about her neighbors, the Hales, who had to evacuate their home.  “The fire department was over they all day on Monday sandbagging and trying to keep it dry, but I know that water got at least into the basement.  Time will tell.”

The same efforts were on-going in Hudson.  Homes were evacuated and pumped.  Roads were flooded.  Sandbagging efforts helped stop water damage.

“Things went very well,” said Road Agent Kevin Burns, who credited his staff who came in on Saturday and aggressively worked throughout the storm.  “The water just overwhelmed the area.”

“We are lucky that we have the equipment needed to keep the culverts open,” said Burns, who noted that improvements made over the past two decades to improve the roads and drainage paid off.

Hudson Fire Chief Shawn Murray concurs.  “The cooperative effort by all town agencies and the utilities was great.  We knew what we had to do and we did it.”

During the worst of the storm, Hudson fire fighters worked with the Highway Department staff on Pelham and Burns Hill Roads.

“I increased staffing and manned all three fire stations,” said Murray, who noted that the Fire Explorer Post members and call fire fighters all played an important role in working with flooding efforts.

“We evacuated about 30 people,” said Murray.  “The biggest challenges were found in the typical locations in Hudson that flood.  Then on Monday we had to turn our efforts to the Radcliff, Water’s Edge and Tool Street area because of the rising water in the Merrimack River.  We evacuated more homes, helped secure utilities and get the power turned off and put out yet more sand bags.”

“We have some shoulders washed out and we are already working on them.  All the roads were open by 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning and have stayed open.  No school buses had to be detoured,” he smiled.

Burns thanked Brox for opening on Sunday so that he could buy ledge to help prevent washouts.  “They told me I could bust the lock, but they came in and opened up to help us.  I’m lucking to have that kind of support,” 

He also thanked Continental who loaded message boards to Hudson.  “We were able to post warning signs for motorists and that helped up keep the roads open even when water was running over them.”

Town Engineer Tom Sommers said that he would work with Burns and the State on bridge evaluation.  “I expect that the State will come in later and look at the bridges across the Merrimack River.  Although they are all right, the State likes to examine to see if there are any signs of anything that could cause a problem with the next storm.”

“We are seeing a significant drop in the water now,” said Murray, “but there’s still a lot to do.  I was just pleased at how all of us got together and worked together.”

In both towns clean up will be on-going as the waters recede. 

Nadeau Development Approved by Planning Board

by Lynne Ober

Proposed site map showing potential homes, road and shared driveways on Nadeau Farm.

The proposed development of Nadeau Farm by Qroe Farm Preservation Development was approved by Hudson’s Planning Board last week.

Qroe’s niche in the development field revolves around preserving 80 percent or more of farm land, while creating new residential space integrated into the landscape.  

“We will have a little more work to do in Hudson because we are building bigger roads than we really like to put into our developments,” said CEO and President Bob Baldwin.  “In Hudson the roads will be 24 feet wide and I’m very concerned that the road construction causes the least amount of damage to this beautiful property.”

Qroe proposed a unique combination of strategically located home sites, low impact development techniques, recorded easement rights and restrictions, and protective overlays, substantial quantities of preserved farmland and permanent green spaces for the Nadeau Farm Development.

Their development will use long shared driveways with homes nestled in the woods. 

“My only concern,” said Hudson Fire Chief Shawn Murray, “is that the shared driveways be built so that they will hold the weight of a fire truck.  I hope we don’t, but if we need to get to the last home on a shared driveway, that driveway needs to hold up.”

“Qroe presented an innovative plan design that we really haven’t seen here in Hudson,” stated Hudson Community Development Director Sean Sullivan.  “I’m looking forward to working with them on this project.”

According to Baldwin the plans need a bit of tweaking as a result of changing the road size, but he confidently states that Qroe expects to be doing site work as a preliminary to road construction by the end of June.  “We expect to have the first home available for occupancy by fall,” he said.  “We’ll be very active during the summer months.”

Baldwin estimates that 25 percent of the woods on Nadeau’s farm will be cut so that the homes can be built in the woods, preserving the open farmland.  “We like to leave every home with a screen of trees.  We want them to still have a view, but to be shaded and a bit invisible from the whole development.”

According to Selectman Rick Maddox, who is Selectmen’s representative to the Planning Board, “The developers will pay $30,000 into the Town’s sidewalk fund, but will not put sidewalks into their development.”

Baldwin said that Qroe Farms is beginning to take reservations for the properties to be built.

Stanley Alukonis

Born in a blizzard in his family home in Hudson in 1918, Stanley Alukonis lived a full and rich life for his 88 years with us.  During the raging floods on 2006 Mr. Alukonis’ life ended at home with his family.  Not many people can say they were born in Hudson and fewer still have died in the same place of their birth.  Mr. Alukonis leaves behind many things to his family and the community.  He leaves us with respect, courage, dignity, a strong desire to serve others and be the best you can be.  His life was filled with all of those attributes and many more. 

His service to the country during World War II proved his courage flying missions over Germany and providing leadership to his men.  His part in history was set when he was part of the biggest mission ever planned in the bombing of Schweinfurt Germany in 1943.

His service to community proved his respect by leading the Town as a Selectmen and the State as a Representative. 

He proved his dignity in everything he did for his family and friends.  His strength and desire to do his best sometime came out in a gruff and stern way but he always got the best from those around him, no more than he would ask of himself. 

Hudson is slowly losing its history with the passing of Mr. Alukonis and others of his generation.  But the things he leaves for us to aspire to will bring our lives and our children’s’ lives into the future with strength and backbone to do our best. 

The things we do for ourselves are not remembered, but the things we do for others lives on without us.

Nottingham West’s Artist in Residency Creates a Legacy Tile Mural

by Maureen Gillum

NWES first grader, Julia McCaffrey, shows her clay hands in delight.

Nottingham West Elementary School (NWES) had a very innovative Artist in Residency program for two weeks this spring - April 10 - 14 and May 8 – 12 - with clay artist, Rob Rossel.  Rossel was recently featured in ABC’s Chronicle,  The Epping, New Hampshire-based artist has been teaching pottery to children and adults for about fifteen years and has worked ‘in residency’ with many schools throughout New England.  “With Rob’s expertise, equipment, and inspiration, we’ve taken on an incredible giant tile wall mural where all 700 of our NWES students will actually texture and glaze a tile for the project,” enthusiastically shared NWES Art Specialist, Nan Constant.

“The team at Nottingham West was incredibly receptive in tackling something this large and unique,” Rossel explained, “I was really excited to create this giant mosaic of New Hampshire’s natural elements.”  NWES’ clay tile collage represents much of what the kids thought makes New Hampshire what it is – including seascapes, mountains, rivers, butterflies, dragon flies, and trees.  Even within some of the tiles, New Hampshire rocks and colored glass will be melted into the landscape adding more texture and color.  “By taking unusual approaches, we try to have the art generate its own energy and bring the mural to life,” details the thirty-something artist.  Rob also admits much of his “artistic inspiration” comes from his “deep respect and reverence for nature” and many universal symbols, like spirals and circles, reoccur in his work. 

The NWES first through fifth graders loved ‘Mr. Clay’s’ residency and their art immersion experience.  “He was really fun and he let us get really messy!” exclaimed first grader, Jamie Jutras.  “This was wicked cool!” a more experienced fifth grade artist assessed, “I especially liked the pottery wheel and imprinting seashells on my tile.”

Clay Artist, Rob Rossel, assist some NWES first graders at the pottery wheels

After his weeks of hands-on work with NWES students, Rob takes the tile piles back to his studio.  He then completes more weeks of kiln firings (up to 48 hours and 1800 degrees) and glazing processes for each tile.  “The giant mural will then be pieced together, installed and framed over the summer, on the wall between the NWES gym and the café,” reported Mrs. Constant beaming.

Rossel’s education and experiences also bring much richness to his artwork.  He’s a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and Very Special Arts New Hampshire.  Rob earned his B.A. in Art and Anthropology from Luther College and spent two years in Southern Japan completing an apprenticeship with Master Potter, Nomura Junji.  He not only studied and mastered centuries-old throwing, craving, glazing and firing techniques, but became immersed in the Japanese culture as well.  Rob completed an assistantship in Farmington Hill, Michigan.

In addition to making his own work and operating his pottery school and studio (, Rob has completed about 10 school residencies this year.  Like NWES, each is roughly a three month process where he facilitates the creation of giant tile murals, some up to 50 feet long or more.  It is estimated he’s worked with about 5,000 regional students on his mural projects to date.  “I most enjoy the chance to promote art in general and expose as many children as I can to all the many essentials of art,” shared Rob.  He also explained, “there’s a lot of math (arrays, patterning), science (simple machines, heat), and chemistry (glazing) in art, which is fun to explore and share with kids.”

The final products also become legacies.  “It is amazing to see the look on a student's face as they see their work become a permanent part of a school building,” concluded Rob, “they love to come back again and again showing people, with pride, the tile that they created.”  NWES Principal, Peter Durso, and Mrs. Constant have collectively set the mural’s big debut, “We’re going to have a special unveiling as a ‘Community Clay Night’ next fall (tentatively September 21, 2006) in celebration and support of the project and allow families to learn about ceramic tile making process.”  

NWES Art Specialist, Nan Constant helps first grader Jamie Jutras imprint her tile.

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