NORTH ADAMS - Northern Berkshire felt the ire of Tropical Storm Irene on Sunday, as rivers swelled, roads collapsed, mudslides closed roads and residents in North Adams, Adams, Williamstown and Cheshire were evacuated to higher ground.
In Clarksburg, portions of River Road were swept away by rising river waters and a section of road on Beaver Street, near the Clarksburg line, had also fallen in.
Volunteer firefighters in Florida were called in for a mudslide at the Charlemont town line and while another in North Adams on Miner Street exposed a gas line. North Adams officials had shut down State, Beaver, River, Miner and Ashland streets, along with W. Shaft, Daniels and Hodges Cross roads, Greene Avenue, and Curran Highway (Route 8).
In addition, Route 2 east was closed from North Adams to Charlemont.
By noon, Adams had evacuated Charles, Davis, and Columbia streets, along with residents from the Pine Street area and the north end of Lime Street, where a portion of the road had caved in.
Rumors had swirled that the town was shutting off the town water because of contamination, but Town Administrator Jonathan Butler assured residents that there was no problem with the town's water supply.
"The rumors that the water is being shut off in town are incorrect," Butler said in a statement. "There have been some zones in town, on the Northeast side that have been damaged, and those houses may be experiencing low pressure. Other parts of town are currently in tact and should be functional."
Town officials had also closed its roads to through traffic and were urging residents to keep off bridges where rain waters were surging past at extremely high levels.
In North Adams, city officials enacted a mandatory evacuation of Beaver Street, as the North Branch of the Hoosic River had breached a dam near Natural Bridge State Park and water was flowing into the street.
The city also relocated its emergency evacuation shelter from Drury High School to St. Elizabeth's Parish Center, after the South Branch of the Hoosic River flooded much of South Church Street and Hodges Cross Road near McCann Technical School. Only about 10 people were at the shelter shortly before 1 p.m.
"Many people, thankfully could find alternate living arrangements with family and friends," North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said Sunday.
"We're suggesting leaving flood-prone areas, and we're watching the Hoosic River closely because the water level is rising quickly."
Williamstown officials put a mandatory evacuation into effect for residents of the Spruce Mobile Home Park on Route 2, where the river had breached a berm. By 1 p.m., Cheshire officials had closed Notch Road and Main Street, where the Hoosic River had surged over the bridge. A few homes on Flaherty Road were evacuated.
"The fire department and the police have all been great," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.
By 2:30 p.m., as the rain had started to taper off, Fire Chief Tom Francesconi reported that things were "getting better."
He said that in addition to Main Street, parts of East Main Street and Brough Road were also closed because rivers and streams were rising out of their banks.
From those closings, four or five people went to stay in the emergency shelter at Cheshire Elementary School. Another 30 to 35 people went to stay with friends and family on higher ground in town or left town entirely, he said.
The highway department cleared some fallen limbs in the area of Cove Road, however the town has not experienced any power outages.
"We're hoping it stays quiet, but we're keeping the emergency operations center open as long as we need to," Chief Francesconi said. We're going to be here and if any one needs anything, they can come in or give us a call."
Main Street was reopened by 4 p.m.
The operations center, opened at 6 a.m. Sunday, is at the fire station on Route 8 and can be reached by calling 413-743-3387.