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Surveying the damage, totaling the bills

AMESBURY -- Flood waters from the Powow River may have destroyed his refrigerators, washed out his office, and spoiled his food inventory, but the devastation has failed to dampen Francis Broadbery's enthusiasm for running the Powow River Grille in downtown Amesbury.

''We have a lot of work to do, but we're going to open this weekend," Broadbery promised late last week shortly after the electricity was restored to Amesbury's downtown. ''Not only are we going to be back, but we're going to have a big weekend."

Broadbery's restaurant was one of 30 businesses in Amesbury's downtown forced to close Sunday when the rising Powow River prompted an evacuation of two city blocks. Broadbery estimated that between damaged property and lost business, the Flood of 2006 has cost him $150,000 to $200,000.

Amesbury officials declared an emergency at noon Sunday, prompting firefighters to escort customers from Broadbery's midmeal.

''Our big fear was the flood water would carry boulders, trees, and other debris downriver that would then crash up against the pylons supporting the buildings over the river's channel and bring them crashing down," said Amesbury Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer.

Sandbagging to shore up the dam's retaining wall and around-the-clock monitoring by dam engineers brought in by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency averted that disaster, and by midafternoon Wednesday, the water had receded enough for the city to make temporary repairs to the dam.

Excavators spent three hours moving large boulders and dirt to fill in the channel around the dam created by the flood waters, and to redirect the water back over the 80-foot-wide dam. By 5 p.m., Kezer pronounced the immediate emergency over and electricity was restored by midday Thursday.

''We've plugged the hole in the dam's side wall and we're optimistic this repair will hold until the water drops enough for us to see what more we need to do," said Kezer, who estimated that the Powow crested Tuesday afternoon 4 feet above flood stage.

The repairs couldn't happen fast enough for Mark MacCormack, owner of Raya Medical Spa, just down from Broadbery's restaurant.

''Unlike some of our neighbors, we didn't sustain any water damage to speak of, but just being closed for three days has cost us several thousand dollars," said MacCormack, who opened on Main Street seven months ago.

In Haverhill, the devastation caused when the Merrimack River crashed over a flood wall near the Bates Bridge has sunk Jack Howard's hope of getting his Merrimack River Marina up and running again before mid-July.

''We're washed out, quite literally," said Howard, who was still trying to absorb the shock of seeing his cash register and office computer under 5 feet of water on Wednesday. ''The boats we had in storage didn't sustain much damage, but I think all our docks are going to have to be either repaired or replaced."

And because he and his partners still are recovering from damage caused by October flooding, Howard was doubly disheartened.

''We absorbed $40,000 in damage last October, and this flooding is at least twice as serious," Howard said, adding he was crossing his fingers that President Bush would approve federal disaster relief for businesses such as his.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said quick work by public works crews averted a major public health disaster after the main 42-inch pipe that serves the city's waste-water treatment plant collapsed Saturday night, sending hundreds of gallons of storm water and sewage directly into the Merrimack River.

City workers were in waterlogged neighborhoods to assess flood damage, Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini said it could be several weeks before the city can total its flood-related losses.

''We're estimating the total cost of both the temporary bypass pipes and the permanent repairs will hit $1 million," Fiorentini said.

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