MIDDLETOWN — While the remnants of Hurricane Ida were expected to make an impact on the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions last week, the sheer ferocity of the downgraded, former tropical system came as a surprise to many.
In Middletown, nearly 6.5 inches of rain inundated the town in only a few hours, flooding basements and washing out roads.
In the predawn darkness on Thursday, Sept. 2, a teacher who was driving up to the All Saints S.T.E.A.M. Academy campus could not see that Bailey’s Brook, which runs beneath the long driveway leading from St. Lucy Parish to the school behind it, had washed away the road’s foundation. She drove over the edge of the roadway into a crater caused by the swift erosion.
“Fortunately she was unharmed physically as her car went over the edge of the washed out road,” said Father John C. Codega, pastor of St. Lucy Parish, which owns the roadway leading from the main parking lot back to the old convent on the property to what is now All Saints Academy.
“She was able to exit her vehicle through the rear tailgate, wading through shin-deep waters. She called the local police, who directed the barricading of the road after assisting her,” he said.
Father Codega said the roadway crosses Bailey’s Brook over a bulkhead structure that was built to allow access to the back of the property.
He said the bulkhead that directs water into the culvert beneath the roadway failed under the historic rainfall.
“As a result of the water damage to the concrete and masonry structure, the torrential waters began to undermine it as well as over-top it leading to the washout of the road and downstream landscaping,” Father Codega said.
School was immediately cancelled for Thursday and Friday while John Mello, owner of Mello Construction of Middletown and a St. Lucy parishioner, made a temporary repair to the roadway which made it possible for school to continue this week while an engineer reviews the damage in preparation for a permanent repair.
In addition to the roadway, the St. Lucy rectory basement also sustained some damage from the storm.
Father Codega said that, all things considered, the 6 inches of water that flooded the basement was not that big a deal.
“The generally tranquil Bailey’s Brook was not very kind to St. Lucy,” Father Codega said.
“I was awoken to the roar of white water just feet from the back door of the rectory. The brook, now a raging river, overflowed to the point where most of the parking lot and backyard were underwater. Thank God there were no injuries, and a quick response by the staff and parishioners was able to contain any further damage.”
Father Codega, who was a civil engineer before entering the priesthood, dropped a sump pump into the basement at about 7 a.m. to keep the water from rising any higher than five or six inches.
He said that nothing of significance was damaged, and that the parish would be handling the rectory cleanup, although the repair of the bulkhead is likely to cost several thousand dollars.
Hurricane Ida menaced the Louisiana coast four days earlier as a Category 4 storm causing significant wind and flooding damage. Due to the exceptionally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico from which it drew its energy, the storm retained its strong tropical characteristics for the first couple of days before being downgraded to a tropical depression and then a remnant low pressure system.
By late on Wednesday, Sept. 1, the storm system was striking the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England with heavy downpours, which unleashed a month’s worth of rain in only a few hours, causing severe flooding. As of press time, 52 people are believed to have died from the storms in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast alone, with others still missing.