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Northeast Flooding: Vermont’s Capital Swamped and Rescues Underway

by Gabriel Martinez
5 comments
flooding

Intense rainfall in the Northeast region has led to severe flooding, triggering rescue operations and overwhelming Vermont’s capital. On Monday, rescue teams swiftly mobilized in Vermont after heavy rain battered parts of the Northeast, causing road washouts, evacuations, and disruptions in air travel. Tragically, one person lost their life in New York’s Hudson Valley while attempting to escape a flooded residence.

Vermont Urban Search and Rescue’s Mike Cannon mentioned that crews from North Carolina, Michigan, and Connecticut joined forces to reach towns that had become inaccessible due to torrential rain in the state. Cannon highlighted that Londonderry and Weston were among the towns cut off, with rescue teams dispatched for welfare checks. Additionally, the water levels of various dams were closely monitored.

Late on Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that two dams would release water overnight, resulting in “severe flooding” downstream, which could impact multiple towns.

In Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier, floodwaters surged through downtown, submerging the area in knee-high waters. Montpelier Town Manager Bill Fraser estimated that the water levels would continue to rise a couple more feet throughout the night. Montpelier had largely escaped significant damage during the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene that affected the region.

Fraser compared the current flooding to the Montpelier Ice Jams incident in 1992, stating, “For us, this is far worse than Irene. We got water, but it went up and down. There were some basements flooded, but it didn’t last long. We are completely inundated. The water is way, way higher than it ever got during Irene.”

During Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont experienced 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rainfall within 24 hours. The storm claimed six lives in the state, destroyed homes, and damaged over 200 bridges and 500 miles (805 kilometers) of highway.

According to state emergency officials, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the current flooding in Vermont. Numerous roads across the state, including those traversing the Green Mountains, have been closed.

In Vermont, some individuals resorted to canoes to reach the Cavendish Baptist Church, which had transformed into a shelter. About 30 people sought refuge there, and some even prepared cookies for the firefighters engaged in evacuation and rescue operations.

A Vermont representative, Kelly Pajala, shared her experience of evacuating from a four-unit apartment building in Londonderry situated near the West River. Pajala recounted, “The river was at our doorstep. We threw some dry clothes and our cats into the car and drove to higher ground.”

The slow-moving storm reached New England after affecting parts of New York and Connecticut the previous day. Further downpours raised the risk of flash flooding, with certain areas of Vermont already receiving more than 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rainfall, as reported by the National Weather Service in Burlington.

One of the hardest-hit areas was New York’s Hudson Valley, where a woman named Pamela Nugent, 43, lost her life while trying to escape her flooded home in Fort Montgomery. Flash flooding dislodged boulders that crashed into her house, causing damage to a section of its wall. Two other individuals managed to escape.

Officials estimate that the storm has already caused tens of millions of dollars in damages. New York Governor Kathy Hochul described the storm as a historic event, with the community receiving nine inches of rain. The aftermath of the storm left several streets in Highland Falls, New York, impassable, although residents were reported to be safe in their homes.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey mentioned reports of flooding in central and western parts of the state, and emergency management officials were coordinating with local authorities.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was heavily affected by over 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) of rainfall, resulting in debris sliding onto roads and some roads being washed away. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steven W. Gilland confirmed the safety of new cadets and others at the historic academy, located along the Hudson River, but assessing the extent of the damage will take time.

Atmospheric scientists emphasize that destructive flooding events worldwide share a common factor: storms forming in a warmer atmosphere, intensifying the occurrence of extreme rainfall. They predict that further warming will exacerbate the situation.

The storm also caused disruptions to air and rail travel. Numerous flight cancellations were reported at Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports, as well as at Boston’s Logan Airport, according to the Flightaware website. Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York.

Vermont Emergency Management reported that swift water rescue teams had already conducted over 50 rescues, mainly in the southern and central regions of the state.

Among the affected structures was the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont, which had been staging the play “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” for sold-out audiences. Susanna Gellert, the executive artistic director of the Weston Theater Company, stated that around 4 a.m., they made the decision to evacuate 11 people associated with the production to higher ground, with another 15 seeking refuge in nearby Ludlow. The playhouse, which had previously been damaged during Tropical Storm Irene, was once again flooded, with the dressing room and props room submerged.

Cara Philbin, a resident of Ludlow, Vermont, was alerted by her neighbor early in the morning to evacuate her second-floor apartment due to flooding in the parking lot. Philbin shared her experience, stating, “He told me, ‘You need to get out of here… your car is going to float away, and I suggest you do not stay.'” Her neighbor moved her car to a higher location, and she sought shelter with her parents to wait out the storm.

Ross Andrews, along with his wife, narrowly made it back home to Calais, Vermont, witnessing crews working at a 230-year-old dam to prevent its failure. He observed fallen trees and commented, “The interstate was closed right at our exit. Our road was closed right at our driveway. We managed to thread our way back just in the nick of time.”

Reporting by Minchillo took place in Highland Falls, New York. Contributions to this report were made by Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; and Mark Pratt and Steve LeBlanc in Boston.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about flooding

What caused the flooding in the Northeast?

The flooding in the Northeast was caused by heavy rainfall that drenched the region, leading to swollen rivers, washed-out roads, and overwhelmed dams.

Which areas were most affected by the flooding?

Vermont, particularly its capital Montpelier, experienced significant flooding. Other areas in the Northeast, including New York’s Hudson Valley and parts of Massachusetts, also faced flooding.

Were there any casualties reported?

While there was tragic loss of life in New York’s Hudson Valley, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the flooding in Vermont.

How did the authorities respond to the flooding?

Rescue teams from various states, including North Carolina, Michigan, and Connecticut, were mobilized to assist in reaching towns that had become inaccessible. Swift water rescue teams conducted numerous rescues, and emergency management officials closely monitored water levels at dams.

Did the flooding impact transportation?

Yes, the flooding disrupted both air and rail travel. Flight cancellations were reported at airports in New York and Boston, and Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York.

Is the flooding related to climate change?

Atmospheric scientists emphasize that storms forming in a warmer atmosphere contribute to the occurrence of extreme rainfall and can worsen flooding events. The additional warming predicted for the future is expected to exacerbate these situations.

More about flooding

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5 comments

NatureLover24 July 11, 2023 - 11:14 am

Flooding is a major issue caused by climate change. We really need to take action and address the impact of global warming. Mother Nature needs our attention!

Reply
AdventurerJen July 11, 2023 - 5:13 pm

Flash flooding can be so dangerous and unpredictable. My thoughts go out to those affected. Mother Nature can be fierce, but we must stay resilient!

Reply
JohnDoe83 July 11, 2023 - 6:54 pm

omg! teh flooding in da Northeast is like tots cray! so sad to hear abt ppl losin their homes 🙁 hope everyone stays safe #prayers

Reply
WeatherWatcher007 July 12, 2023 - 2:30 am

Wow, the rainfall in Vermont is insane! Can’t believe the water levels are higher than during Tropical Storm Irene. Stay safe, everyone!

Reply
Bookworm82 July 12, 2023 - 3:57 am

It’s heartwarming to see communities coming together to help each other during these difficult times. Shoutout to the shelter volunteers and rescue teams for their heroic efforts!

Reply

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