Gov. Sununu Tours Grafton County Storm Damage

Jul 3, 2017

Gov. Sununu visiting with campers at the Branch Brook Campground in Campton, parts of which were flooded Saturday night.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu and other public safety officials toured damage sites in Grafton County on Monday following Saturday evening's major storms.

Dozens of roads remain closed, with preliminary estimates of the clean up effort topping $4 million.

Many of the hardest hit areas remain inaccessible, so to get a better view, Sununu used a helicopter.

He touched down in a field at Branch Brook Campground, a private park in the town of Campton with 200 or so sites. There, kids in bathing suits and adults enjoying a midday cocktail greeted him.

“Where are you from?” asked the governor to one man.

“We’re from Massachusetts,” came the response.

“Well, no need to go back. Trust me, we don’t get storms like this too often up here.”

While Sununu is always happy to sell his home state to visitors, Saturday’s storm was a reminder of how quickly New Hampshire’s weather can change.

A flooded campsite at the Branch Brook Campground.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

The band of storms dropped more than an inch of rain per hour Saturday evening, sending the waters of many rivers, including the Pemigewasset, ever higher.

“Even while we were operating several times we had to move back because it was just rising faster than we anticipated,” says Daniel Defosses, chief of the Campton-Thornton Fire Department. Late Saturday night, he and other emergency personnel helped relocate more than 100 guests of the Branch Brook campsites. That includes Jill Ventry of Georgetown, Maine.

“My boyfriend woke up at 2, cause he had to pee, and when we unzipped the tent, we were on like 4 or 5 feet of water, floating,” she recalls. “Our tent had actually lifted and moved about 25 feet from where we had fallen asleep. And we had been caught in the trees, they were holding us in place, and we had no idea. Even our dog was asleep in the tent. We were all oblivious.”

First responders were able to reach Jill and her boyfriend, using guide ropes to get them to higher ground. There were no reports of any serious injuries from the storms.

At least a dozen cars and campers, though, didn’t escape the water. A steady stream of tow trucks were working on Monday to haul them out.

Awaiting the Governor's departure by helicopter in Campton.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

Steve Clark relocated his tent to higher ground and said he was still looking for some of his missing belongings. Standing at a bend in the river, still running high and fast, he points to where debris came rushing down the river.  

“We were just watching trees come out. And I mean trees. It was a logger’s heaven,” says Clark.

Governor Sununu says the state will likely be able to access federal disaster money. FEMA officials are expected on site by the end of the week.