Vermont Flooding: What to Know

Vermont Flooding What to Know | ltc-a

In the wake of a powerful storm that dumped up to nine inches of rain over parts of Vermont, residents in cities and towns across the state are only beginning to reckon with the destruction wrought by flooding unleashed by the historic flood.

Though the skies have cleared after Monday’s storm, rivers are rushing over their banks, dams are filling up and forecasters are warning of more rain in the coming days.

Here’s what to know about the flood:

The storm hit New York State for the first time on Sunday, with one death attributed to fast-moving floodwaters. In just four hours, more than seven inches of rain fell at West Point. Several rail lines in the state, such as Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem lines, were suspended Monday due to fallen trees, mud and boulders blocking the tracks.

The system then headed north into New England, causing severe flooding and forcing hundreds to evacuate their homes in Vermont.

At least two of Vermont’s rivers — the Winooski, which flows through Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, and the Lamoille — have exceeded levels reached during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Flooding blocked major roads and state highways, and Montpelier city officials on Tuesday issued an emergency order temporarily closing the flooded downtown area.

Governor Phil Scott of Vermont described the flooding as « historic and catastrophic » and said on Tuesday that thousands of residents had lost their homes, businesses and more.

As of Tuesday, Vermont officials said there were no reported injuries or deaths, but warned the state was still in the « early stages of this disaster. » More than 100 rescues have already been carried out, officials said, as teams used boats and helicopters to pull people from flooded homes and cars.

A major concern has been whether the Wrightsville Dam, just north of downtown Montpelier, will exceed its capacity.

William Fraser, the city manager of Montpelier, said Tuesday that the dam was nearly full and could potentially spill into the North Branch River.

« This hasn’t happened since the dam was built, so there’s no precedent for potential damage, » he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, city officials said the water was only a foot below the dam’s auxiliary spillway, but that the rate at which the water was rising had slowed.

« At this time, it is difficult to determine whether there will be a spillway activation, » officials said in a statement. « Activation of a spillway is how the structure is designed to operate and does not mean a dam failure. »

Flooding and debris from the storm forced the closure of dozens of roadways across the state, including Interstate 89, which was closed Monday night, stranding many motorists overnight.

With some areas of Vermont still inaccessible by road and with relief efforts prioritizing damage assessments, officials said it would take time before they could provide a full account of the toll on homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Chief Eric W. Nordenson of the Montpelier Police Department said Tuesday that the city’s resources « have been very scarce » due to calls for help.

In other cities, such as Londonderry, which was hit hard by Monday’s floods, remediation was already underway.

In New York, officials on Monday estimated the damage would likely cost tens of millions of dollars to repair.

« My friends, this is the new normal, » New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Monday, referring to the effect of climate change on flooding. People have to « be prepared for the worst, » she said, « because the worst keeps happening. »

According to National Weather Service, Generally sunny weather is expected across Vermont on Wednesday. However, showers and thunderstorms are possible Thursday, along with a slight risk of excessive rain — described as « a few more inches » — across much of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Eastern New York.

Governor Scott warned Tuesday that although the sun was shining, this episode was not over, as rivers could still rise.

« This is nowhere near finished, » he said.