Vermont’s flood-wracked capital city ponders a rebuild with one eye on climate change

by Ryan Lee
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climate change impacts

Vermont’s capital city, which has been devastated by floods, is contemplating its reconstruction plans while keeping climate change in mind. Over the years, some businesses relocated to higher ground after experiencing flooding incidents, but the recent extreme weather events, including torrential rains in July, have shattered the illusion of safety. Climate change has made floods more frequent and severe, making it necessary for downtown Montpelier to rethink how and where they rebuild.

The floods in July resulted in tragic consequences, with two people losing their lives, and thousands of homes and businesses sustaining damage. Many communities in Vermont have historical ties to rivers, leading to roads and waterways being in close proximity, which presents challenges for future development and settlement.

After the previous major flood caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Vermont invested in rebuilding infrastructure to withstand future floods. However, the recent floods have shown that more work is needed to prepare for such disasters. Thoughtful planning is required to allow rivers more space to flood without causing as much damage to towns and villages.

The recent floods have left downtown Montpelier in ruins, with businesses struggling to recover from both the COVID-19 pandemic and the floods. Some businesses plan to increase their resilience to future floods by moving utilities upstairs and no longer using basements for storage. Others are considering relocating entirely. However, the challenges of rebuilding and reinvesting after multiple disasters have taken a toll on business owners, leaving them emotionally drained.

To support the rebuilding efforts, the state of Vermont has made grants available to affected businesses. Despite the funding, many business owners feel overwhelmed with the recovery process, which involves dealing with paperwork, insurance claims, and finding contractors.

The situation in Montpelier highlights the urgent need for proactive measures to address the impacts of climate change and increase preparedness for extreme weather events in vulnerable areas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about climate change impacts

Q: What happened in Montpelier, Vermont, during the floods?

A: Montpelier, Vermont, experienced devastating floods due to torrential rains in July, causing significant damage to businesses, homes, and infrastructure.

Q: Has Montpelier faced similar floods in the past?

A: Yes, Montpelier has experienced flooding in the past, including incidents after an ice jam in 1992 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Q: What role did climate change play in the recent floods?

A: Climate change is believed to have contributed to the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including the recent floods in Montpelier.

Q: How are businesses in Montpelier planning to rebuild and prepare for the future?

A: Many businesses are considering moving to higher ground and making infrastructure changes, such as relocating utilities upstairs and refraining from using basements for storage, to increase resilience to future floods.

Q: What support is available for businesses affected by the floods?

A: The state of Vermont has made $20 million in grants available to help businesses rebuild, but some businesses may also rely on fundraising events and GoFundMe campaigns for additional support.

Q: How are local communities addressing the risks of future floods?

A: Experts suggest that communities should plan for better river management, allowing rivers more space to flood without causing extensive damage to towns and villages.

Q: How is the recovery process affecting business owners in Montpelier?

A: Business owners are facing significant challenges and stress during the recovery process, including dealing with paperwork, insurance claims, and finding contractors to rebuild.

Q: What long-term measures are needed to mitigate flood risks in Montpelier?

A: Long-term measures should include proactive planning, sustainable development, and increased investment in infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

More about climate change impacts

  • “Vermont floods: Climate change impact on small towns” – AP News
  • “Montpelier, Vermont, struggles to rebuild after devastating floods” – Reuters
  • “Climate change and increased flood risks in Vermont” – Nature Conservancy of Vermont
  • “Lessons from Tropical Storm Irene: Preparing for future floods in Vermont” – Vermont Public Radio
  • “Resilience and recovery after floods in Montpelier” – VTDigger
  • “Vermont flood relief and support for businesses” – Vermont.gov
  • “River management strategies for flood-prone areas” – US Army Corps of Engineers
  • “Addressing climate change impacts in Vermont” – Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

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