Vermont Commences Recovery After Devastating Floods From Prolonged Storm

by Ethan Kim
Vermont flood recovery

As floodwaters finally recede in Vermont, towns and cities that bore the brunt of a relentless storm – which unloaded two months’ worth of rain in just two days – are shifting their attention towards recovery efforts. This catastrophe left residents stranded in their homes, rendered roads impassable and covered streets and commercial areas in mud and debris.

Montpelier, the state capital, was severely impacted on Tuesday when the Winooski River overflowed its banks, flooding the city’s streets. However, according to local officials, the water level at an upstream dam seemed to be holding steady. Bill Fraser, Montpelier’s Town Manager, commented, “It appears that the dam will hold firm. This is good news. It’s one less concern that demands our immediate attention.”

Fraser admitted the dam is still a worry but with the subsiding floodwater, the city is transitioning into recovery mode. Public works employees were due to begin clearing mud and debris from downtown on Wednesday, and building inspections were planned to start as business owners initiated their clean-up operations.

Governor Phil Scott was scheduled to survey flood-damaged areas with Deanne Criswell, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on Wednesday. This came after President Joe Biden declared an emergency for Vermont and authorized federal aid for disaster relief.

The slow-paced storm reached New England after battering parts of New York and Connecticut on Sunday. Some localities saw a rainfall of between 7 and 9 inches (approximately 18 to 23 centimeters). Severe flooding and road washouts were reported in towns in southwest New Hampshire, and the Connecticut River was predicted to breach flood levels on Wednesday in Hartford and towns further south.

Across Montpelier’s downtown, the Winooski’s brown waters had submerged cars and nearly covered parking meters along charming brick storefront-lined streets. The basements and ground floors of these buildings were flooded. Residents of the 8,000-strong city traversed waist-high waters on Tuesday, with some opting to canoe or kayak along the main streets to survey the damage.

Surveying the scene by canoe, Bryan Pfeiffer was horrified by the damage. Basements, including his workplace’s, and most ground floors were flooded, even including the city’s fire station. “It’s really troubling when your fire station is under water,” he stated.

Similar scenarios unfolded in neighboring towns Barre and Bridgewater, where the Ottauquechee River overflowed.

Governor Scott highlighted that the floodwaters exceeded levels observed during Tropical Storm Irene, which resulted in six fatalities and caused significant infrastructural damage in Vermont in August 2011.

With damages already estimated in the tens of millions, no injury or death reports have been associated with Vermont’s floods. Vermont Emergency Management reported on Tuesday that swift-water rescue teams, supported by National Guard helicopter crews, conducted over 100 rescues.

One tragic incident occurred in New York’s Hudson Valley, where a woman, identified as Pamela Nugent, 43, lost her life attempting to escape her flooded home with her dog in Fort Montgomery.

Atmospheric scientists caution that destructive flooding events will increase in frequency as storms intensify in a warming atmosphere. Rising global temperatures are expected to exacerbate this situation.

For Vermont, additional rainfall is predicted for Thursday and Friday. However, Peter Banacos, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, assured that there won’t be any further torrential downpours.

The primary focus is currently on reopening roads, checking in on isolated homeowners and cleaning out inundated businesses.

Ludlow Municipal Manager, Brendan McNamara, stated, “We sustained catastrophic damage. We bore the full force of the storm.” Significant damage was evident in Ludlow, a town of 1,500 people, with the water treatment plant and main supermarket closed, and an unknown number of homes damaged. The Little League field and a new skate park were destroyed, and many businesses suffered damage.

McNamara added, “Thankfully, there was no loss of life. Ludlow will recover. People are rallying together and supporting one another.”

Colleen Dooley, a retired teacher, returned to her Ludlow condominium complex on Tuesday to find the area blanketed in mud and the pool filled with murky river water. “I don’t know when we’ll be able to move back, but it will definitely take some time,” she stated.

Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; and Mark Pratt, Michael Casey and Steve LeBlanc in Boston also contributed to this report.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vermont flood recovery

What caused the flooding in Vermont?

The flooding was caused by a slow-moving storm that dropped an equivalent of two months’ worth of rain in just two days.

How is Vermont handling the aftermath of the flood?

Vermont has shifted to recovery mode, focusing on clearing mud and debris, checking isolated homeowners, and cleaning flooded businesses. Federal assistance has been authorized to support these efforts.

Was there any loss of life due to the flooding in Vermont?

Thankfully, there have been no reported fatalities or injuries related to the flooding in Vermont.

What are the future weather predictions for Vermont?

While more rain is predicted for the coming days, the state will likely be spared any further torrential downpours, according to a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Is there any connection between the flooding and climate change?

Atmospheric scientists suggest that destructive flooding events are likely to occur more frequently as storms become more intense due to a warming atmosphere.

More about Vermont flood recovery

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Patrick H July 12, 2023 - 6:50 pm

as someone who survived Irene, I can say this is horrible. The devastation is worse than what we experienced in 2011. VT stay strong!

Beverly K July 12, 2023 - 8:48 pm

Climate change is real y’all. We need to take more serious actions, or these disasters are only gonna get worse.

Tom L. July 12, 2023 - 11:40 pm

man the weather’s gone crazy, i mean 2 months worth rain in 2 days?? thats insane! Hoping for the best for everyone involved.

Jake W. July 13, 2023 - 3:15 am

oh man, feelin bad for folks in vermont right now, hope they get back on their feet soon…climate change ain’t no joke folks!

Mandy G July 13, 2023 - 10:52 am

Can’t believe the damaga these floods caused! praying for everyone affected. stay strong Vermont!


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