Vermont Flooding: What to Know

After a powerful storm dumped nine inches of rain on parts of Vermont, residents of towns and cities across the state are beginning to grapple with the devastation unleashed by the historic deluge.

Although skies cleared from Monday’s storm, rivers are overflowing their banks, dams are full and forecasters warn of more rain in the coming days.

Here’s what you need to know about flooding:

The storm first hit New York state on Sunday, where one person died from fast-moving floodwaters. In less than four hours, more than seven inches of rain fell on the West End. Several rail lines in the state, such as Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem lines, were shut down Monday as a result of fallen trees, mud and boulders blocking the tracks.

The system then moved north into New England, causing severe flooding that forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes in Vermont.

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

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

Vermont Governor Bill Scott described the flooding as “historic and catastrophic” and said Tuesday that thousands of residents had lost their homes, businesses and more.

As of Tuesday, Vermont officials said no injuries or deaths had been reported, but they warned the state was still “in the early stages of this disaster.” Already, more than 100 rescue operations have been carried out, officials said, with crews using boats and helicopters to pull people from flooded homes and cars.

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One of the biggest concerns is whether the Wrightsville Dam, north of downtown Montpelier, will exceed its capacity.

Montpelier City Manager William Fraser said Tuesday that the dam is nearly full and could spill into the North Branch River.

“This has never happened since the dam was built, so there is no precedent for potential damage,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, water was only about a foot below the dam’s auxiliary spillway, but the rate of rise had slowed, city officials said.

“At this time, it is difficult to determine whether the spillway will be activated,” officials said in a statement. “Spillway activation is how the structure was designed to function and does not necessarily indicate a dam failure.”

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

With parts of Vermont still inaccessible by road, officials said it will take time to provide a total count of homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure as recovery efforts take priority over damage assessment.

Montpelier Police Chief Eric W. Nordenson said Tuesday that the city’s resources were “spread pretty thin” with calls for help.

In other towns, such as Londonderry, which was hit hard by Monday’s floods, clean-up operations are already underway.

In New York, officials on Monday estimated the damage to be in the tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

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“My friends, this is the new normal,” New York Gov. Cathy Hochul said Monday, referring to the effect of climate change on flooding. People should “be prepared for the worst, because the worst keeps happening,” he said.

As stated therein National Weather Service, Wednesday is forecast to be generally sunny across Vermont. However, showers and thunderstorms are possible Thursday with a slight risk of more rain — what will be described as “a few extra inches” across much of Vermont, New Hampshire and eastern New York.

Governor Scott warned Tuesday that even though the sun is shining, the chapter is not over yet, as rivers could still rise.

“It’s nowhere near enough,” he said.

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