Jackson residents share what it’s like to face unprecedented flooding

Jackson residents share what it’s like to face unprecedented flooding

Melloon Road in Jackson saw significant damage in Monday’s flood. Photo courtesy of Jackson Police Department.

By Katy Savage

December 20, 2023

Kathleen Flammia was at work when she grew concerned about the raging sound of the Jackson Falls and rain pounding down outside.

She left work around 3 p.m. just to check on her house. 

“An hour later, I was like, ‘oh my god, where is this coming from?’” she said.  

Water had engulfed the bottom of her garage and about a foot of water flooded her basement. 

Flammia didn’t try to stop the water at that point. She said there was nothing she could have done.

“The river was moving so fast, there’s no way you’d go out near there,” she said. 

Flammia, the executive director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, lives across the street from the chamber. Her home is near the confluence of the Wildcat Brook and Ellis River. She’s never seen the town flood so much. 

“I’ve been here 20 years and this was the worst I’ve seen,” she said. “I was flabbergasted. I never saw it come even close to where it came this time.” 

Flammia’s home was originally a post office and country store before it was turned into a residence. 

“I call that my little piece of heaven,” she said, explaining she was lucky she had no major damage. “I was really scared that I might lose that. I could never build it back. I woke up very blessed.” 

Jackson was one of the hardest hit areas in Monday’s storm. About 6 inches of rain fell within  three hours, according to the National Weather Service. The rain, combined with snowmelt from warming temperatures, along with runoff from the mountain, led to an unprecedented amount of flooding in Jackson. Roads closed and schools dismissed students early. 

“This was a significant flooding event in a town that doesn’t generally see significant flooding,” Jackson Police Chief Chris Perley said. “We usually catch a real break when it comes to flooding. We don’t have areas where water pools.”

At certain points, water was nearly going over the historic cobblestone bridge on Route 16 and the covered Honeymoon Bridge, which dates back to 1876.

The Snowflake Inn’s parking lot was “completely submerged” in water. 

“It took feet out of my parking lot,” said Sue Methot, the innkeeper of The Snowflake Inn. 

Methot was in South Carolina during the storm while friends sent her videos and images of Jackson Falls.

“I was getting the blow by blow,” she said. “Boulders were going down the slopes like marbles. 

It was the most helpless feeling ever to not be able to help our staff and take care of stuff.” 

The inn remained open and Methot said there was no damage to the building.

“It’s hard to be fighting a storm this late in the season,” she said. “I’m going from plow bills to yard rebuilding bills in the same month.” 

There were no injuries reported in the storm and no major damage to buildings. Unlike other parts of the state, Jackson saw little wind and no significant power outages, though the water damaged backroads.  

When it came for school drop off, police officers took matters into their own hands and drove two children home in their 4-wheel drive pickup trucks after deeming Pinkham Notch unsafe for the bus to pass.

“The sergeant got into Pinkham Notch and actually dismounted his cruiser and had to check the roadway on foot because he was unsure of the road condition underneath,” Perley said. “We were able to navigate that and get them home.” 

 Perley said the storm was a challenge for the town as a whole. 

“Water was historic in the sense that the levels were higher than we saw during Tropical Storm Irene,” he said. “It was so fast that it became a race against time to get people where they needed to be safely to keep up with road hazards and road closures that come along with a natural disaster.” 

Route 16 was closed on Monday, while Carter Notch Road completely washed out and Melloon Road was “completely destroyed by flooding,” with a gap in the road about 15-feet wide and 5 feet deep,” Perley said.

“It was a pretty substantial erosion,” Perley said, comparing this to other major flood events. “There was significant damage to roadways during Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy but nothing localized in Jackson.” 

The skies cleared on Tuesday and the sun came out as water receded. Most roads had reopened. 

Perley said the community rallied together. Many were outside during the storm, sweeping the streets to keep them clear of debris. 

“That’s the great thing about New Hampshire,” Methot said. “We don’t wait for anybody, we jump right in and get things fixed.”


Read more: New Hampshire faces power outages in wake of intense storm 



  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up.

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