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Vermont Begins Recovery Process Following Devastating Floods from Slow-Moving Storm

by Ethan Kim
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flood recovery

Vermont is slowly transitioning into the recovery phase after being severely impacted by a flood caused by a slow-moving storm that unleashed two months’ worth of rain in just two days. As floodwaters recede, officials can now concentrate on the daunting task of restoring normalcy in affected areas. Homes were rendered inaccessible, roads were closed, and streets and businesses were overwhelmed with mud and debris.

In Montpelier, the state capital where the Winooski River flooded streets on Tuesday, officials expressed relief as water levels at an upstream dam appeared stable. Montpelier Town Manager Bill Fraser stated, “It looks like it won’t breach. That is good news. It’s one less thing we have to worry about.”

While the dam remains a lingering concern, the receding water allows the city to shift its focus towards recovery. Public works personnel are expected to commence the removal of mud and debris from downtown areas, while building inspections will commence as businesses begin cleaning up their properties.

The slow-moving storm initially struck New York and Connecticut before reaching New England. Some communities received between 7 and 9 inches (18 centimeters and 23 centimeters) of rain. Southwest New Hampshire experienced heavy flooding and road washouts, with the Connecticut River anticipated to exceed flood stage in Hartford and surrounding towns on Wednesday.

In Vermont’s capital, the Winooski River turned brown, obscuring vehicles and parking meters along picturesque streets lined with brick storefronts. Basements and lower floors of these establishments were submerged, resulting in residents wading through waist-high water or resorting to canoes and kayaks to navigate the flooded streets.

Bryan Pfeiffer, who surveyed the damage by canoeing around downtown, expressed his shock at the situation. The basements of every building, including his workplace, were inundated. Even the city’s fire station was flooded, a distressing sight for Pfeiffer and the community.

Similar scenes unfolded in neighboring areas such as Barre and Bridgewater, where the overflowing Ottauquechee River wreaked havoc.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott stated that floodwaters surpassed the levels witnessed during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which caused significant destruction across the state. The current flooding has already caused tens of millions of dollars in damages. Thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities related to the flooding in Vermont. Swift-water rescue teams, aided by National Guard helicopters, conducted over 100 rescues, as per Vermont Emergency Management.

The Hudson Valley in New York was among the hardest-hit regions, with one casualty reported. Pamela Nugent, 43, tragically lost her life while attempting to escape her flooded home in Fort Montgomery with her dog.

Atmospheric scientists emphasize that destructive flooding events are becoming more frequent as storms form in a warmer atmosphere. The rising global temperatures will only exacerbate these situations.

Although Vermont can expect more rain on Thursday and Friday, meteorologist Peter Banacos of the National Weather Service assured that the state would be spared from further torrential downpours.

Efforts are now focused on reopening roadways, checking on isolated homeowners, and clearing out mud and debris from waterlogged businesses. Municipal Manager Brendan McNamara of Ludlow, a severely affected town with a population of 1,500, described the flooding as catastrophic. The town’s water treatment plant was lost, and numerous businesses and houses suffered damage. However, McNamara expressed gratitude that no lives were lost and highlighted the community’s resilience in helping one another during this challenging time.

Residents like Colleen Dooley, who returned to her Ludlow condominium complex to find silt-covered grounds and a pool filled with muddy river water, anticipate a lengthy recovery period before they can return to normalcy.

President Joe Biden, currently attending the annual NATO summit in Lithuania, declared a state of emergency in Vermont and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate relief efforts and provide assistance. FEMA has dispatched a team and emergency communications equipment to Vermont and stands ready to supply shelters if requested by the state. The agency is also monitoring flooding in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about flood recovery

What caused the flooding in Vermont?

The flooding in Vermont was caused by a slow-moving storm that delivered an unusually high amount of rainfall, resulting in two months’ worth of rain in just two days.

Were there any casualties or injuries during the flooding?

Fortunately, there have been no reports of casualties or injuries related to the flooding in Vermont. Swift-water rescue teams, supported by National Guard helicopter crews, performed over 100 rescues to ensure the safety of residents.

How does this flooding compare to previous events like Tropical Storm Irene?

Governor Phil Scott stated that the floodwaters surpassed the levels seen during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which caused significant damage across the state. The current flooding has already caused tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Is there assistance available for the affected areas?

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for Vermont and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance. FEMA has sent a team and emergency communications equipment to Vermont and is prepared to supply shelters if requested by the state.

Are there concerns about future flooding?

While more rain was forecasted, meteorologist Peter Banacos of the National Weather Service assured that the state would be spared from further torrential downpours. However, it’s important to remain vigilant and prepared for any future weather events.

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