Severe rains flood East Street in Belchertown, road collapses

  • A driveway on East Street in Belchertown was heavily damaged by flooding on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • Joe Kenneally, left, with daughter Quinn and wife Donna-Rae in front of the collapsed portion of East Street on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • A nearly 20-foot section of East Street collapsed Sunday morning due to severe flooding from heavy rainfall and a beaver dam that broke. STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • Quinn Kenneally, a resident on East Street, returns a large tadpole to a stream caused by the flooding on Sunday morning. The fallen tree, rocks, and mud are a result of the severe flood. STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

  • The Belchertown Department of Public Works was clearing the damage from the flood on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/LUIS FIELDMAN

Staff Writer 
Published: 7/18/2021 6:49:06 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Flooding from severe rainfall coupled with a beaver dam that burst caused a nearly 20-foot portion of East Street to collapse on Sunday morning, and caused property damage to nearly half a dozen homes.

Authorities were alerted to the collapsed portion of the road near 421 East St. at about 3:30 a.m., prompting police to warn residents in the area to evacuate, according to Belchertown Fire Chief John Ingram. No residents were injured in the flooding.

“It took out an entire portion of the road,” Ingram said. He said the heavy rain and beaver dam that broke in a nearby stream caused the road to collapse.

Some residents were able to stay in their homes, Ingram said, while others were evacuated for their safety. Two people were brought to Town Hall in the early hours of the morning for safety concerns. Residents were brought back as the water receded.

Ingram said he spoke with the head of the Department of the Public Works who determined that the road will be closed “for quite some time” in order to make repairs. “There is no estimate” for how long, he said.

“Thank god for the Belchertown DPW,” said Donna-Rae Kenneally as she walked up her front yard toward East Street on Sunday afternoon. She said workers had been there since 4 a.m. to clear up damage from the flood.

“Last year we lost a tree and lost power for about a week,” due to powerful storms, said her husband, Joe Kenneally. “It’s just what happens now.”

The couple has lived at their home on East Street for 13 years. The home is less than a few hundred yards away from the scene of the collapse. A small brook in their backyard that is typically “nonexistent” during most summers turned into a rushing stream overnight, the Kenneallys said.

The storm in the early hours of Sunday woke them up, even over the noise of their air conditioner, they said. They heard loud cracks and crashes around 4 a.m., but they thought it was just loud thunder.

In the light of the morning, they saw extensive damage to their front and back yards. The flooding waters had torn down trees, washed up large rocks and mud, destroyed their brick fire pit outdoors, and pushed back a treehouse nearly 40 feet into the woods.

Surveying the loud stream and damage to their backyard — about 25 feet from their home — the Kenneallys normally Zen-like porch now overlooked a fast-running stream with what they said looked like a beachfront made from sand and mud washed in from the flooding.

“We have a new beach in the backyard,” Quinn, the couple’s daughter, said.

Soon after being woken up from the loud bangs, Donna-Rae said they received a phone call from the Belchertown Police Department telling them they were evacuating homes in their area due to the severe flooding. The Kenneallys decided to remain in their home as they continued to have power and running water.

“We weren’t sure when we would be able to get back,” Joe said. The couple said the DPW and police were at the site of the road collapse since 4:30 a.m., and by midday, there were still DPW workers at the scene.

The Kenneallys said there was at least one more beaver dam still intact, and they worried about what would happen should that one break.

“Who knows what’s going to happen after that,” Joe said.

A neighbor next door to the Kenneallys was essentially “stranded” as a result of the flooding, Joe said.

The same stream that cut into the Kenneallys’ backyard had broken across the neighbor’s driveway, cutting the neighbor off from East Street. Chief Ingram said the residence had access on the opposite side to Route 9.

The Kenneallys said they were not sure if their neighbors had drinking water or power, and earlier in the day Joe Kenneally had tossed a backpack full of water over the stream to their neighbor.

“It’s a new river,” he said looking out from his porch. He recalled how last year the house had lost power for about a week due to severe storms. He said only in the past couple of years have storms gotten worse.

“It’s nuts how that can happen in one night,” he said, adding that the couple has become used to not knowing what may come next when it comes to storms.

“Thankfully, the trees didn’t fall on the house,” Donna-Rae said. “Everyone is alive and okay.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com


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