Volunteers Use Snow Shovels to Clear Mud After Severe Floods Hit Vermont

by Madison Thomas
Vermont Flood Cleanup

Following extensive rainfall and severe flooding, volunteers across Vermont gathered their snow shovels on Wednesday to remove copious amounts of mud, which had trapped residents in homes, blocked roads, and left a trail of debris across streets and businesses.

The water has receded in many areas, including the state capital, Montpelier, where rising levels of the Winooski River had flooded basements and ground floors, destroying items in the picturesque downtown area. Several communities are also dealing with the aftermath of historic floods, more destructive than Tropical Storm Irene in numerous areas, leaving many roads closed and countless homes and businesses damaged.

However, with ongoing rescues, high water levels still impeding some routes, and the threat of new flash floods due to incoming rain, the situation remains critical, warns Jennifer Morrison, the state Public Safety Commissioner. She urged Vermont residents to stay vigilant and take no risks.

In related flood news:

  • Vermont faces a second day of flooding, with muddy water reaching the tops of parking meters in the capital city
  • Multiple countries concurrently experience deadly flooding; scientists predict such instances will become increasingly common
  • Unending rain prompts rescues and floods Vermont’s capital

During the crisis, urban search and swift water rescue teams helped at least 32 individuals and numerous animals on Tuesday night in Lamoille County in northern Vermont. This brought the total number of rescues to over 200 since Sunday, in addition to more than 100 evacuations.

A surge of volunteers arrived in Montpelier, a city of 8,000, to assist flooded businesses by shoveling mud, cleaning, and moving damaged items. According to Peter Walke, a volunteer organizer, the response was so overwhelming that several businesses had to turn people away.

Neighboring towns, such as Barre, Bridgewater, and Ludlow, witnessed similar scenes of community solidarity in the face of the disaster. Chef Andrew Molen’s several restaurants in Ludlow were among the businesses affected, with one of them likely permanently closed after floodwaters rose to nearly 7 feet (over 2 meters).

Prioritizing the needs of the local residents and first responders, Molen’s team prepared meals at one of the undamaged restaurants and delivered the food to a local community center using ATVs to navigate through the standing water.

Governor Phil Scott and Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, surveyed the damage. Teams started damage assessments by air and on the ground after President Joe Biden declared an emergency and approved federal disaster relief. The damage costs are anticipated to be considerable.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders observed, “I think we all understand we are now living through the worst natural disaster to impact the state of Vermont since (the flood of) 1927,” referring to the floods that caused extensive destruction and killed many.

Climate scientists predict that such destructive floods will occur more often, as global warming leads to the atmosphere holding more water. Not only Vermont but also New York’s Hudson River Valley, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts experienced severe impacts.

With debris ranging from entire trees to vehicles being carried away by floodwaters, major rivers overflowed, and even after two days of water receding, farmland alongside the Connecticut River remains saturated. Roads and riverside parks were closed in many cities as rivers crested up to 6 feet (2 meters) above flood stage.

As of Wednesday, water levels in Vermont’s rivers have peaked and started to recede. Even though at least one river remained 20 feet (6 meters) above normal, forecasters say that the rapid passage of upcoming thunderstorms and gusty winds will likely prevent further flooding.

The storm claimed one life — a woman swept away in Fort Montgomery, New York.

Approximately 12 Vermont communities, including the capital, were placed under a boil water advisory. However, they are now accessible after being cut off by the high water levels. The American Red Cross of Northern New England supported shelters in several locations where evacuees were given disaster assessments and clean-up kits to prepare for the next rains.

One of the severely hit businesses was Bear Pond Books, a 50-year-old store in Montpelier. According to co-owner Claire Benedict, a water depth of about 3 1/2 feet ruined many books and fixtures.

Other areas, such as Ludlow, also experienced significant damage, but Brendan McNamara, Ludlow’s Municipal Manager, remains optimistic about the recovery, noting, “Ludlow will be fine. People are coming together and taking care of each other.”

Contributors to this report include Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; and Mark Pratt, Michael Casey, and Steve LeBlanc in Boston.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vermont Flood Cleanup

What happened in Vermont?

Severe floods occurred in Vermont after torrential rainfall. The floods trapped people in homes, closed roadways, and left debris on streets and businesses. The state capital, Montpelier, and other communities were heavily affected.

Who helped with the cleanup?

Volunteers across the state came together to help with the cleanup. Using snow shovels, they cleared the mud and assisted in cleaning up businesses and streets.

Are the floods in Vermont over?

While the waters have started to recede, state Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison warned that the crisis is far from over due to more expected rain and potential flash floods.

How have local businesses been affected by the flooding?

Many local businesses, particularly in Montpelier, have been heavily affected. For example, Bear Pond Books, a 50-year-old store in Montpelier, had many of its books and fixtures ruined by the flood.

How has the state responded to the floods?

The state has been actively involved in rescue and relief operations. Urban search and swift water rescue teams have helped rescue people and animals, with over 200 rescues and 100 evacuations reported. Governor Phil Scott toured the disaster areas, and damage assessments began after President Joe Biden declared an emergency and authorized federal disaster relief.

Are other areas experiencing similar flooding?

Yes, New York’s Hudson River Valley, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts also experienced severe flooding due to the same weather system.

What are the long-term impacts expected from these floods?

The total cost of damage is expected to be substantial. Beyond immediate property and infrastructure damage, there are also concerns about ongoing boil water advisories, possible health risks, and the long-term impacts on local businesses and the economy. Atmospheric scientists warn that such destructive floods are likely to happen more frequently due to global warming.

More about Vermont Flood Cleanup

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EcoWarrior77 July 14, 2023 - 12:49 am

These disasters aren’t gonna stop unless we seriously combat climate change. Time for all of us to wake up n’ do our part!

MapleLeafMike July 14, 2023 - 1:39 am

I’m from Montpelier and honestly, it’s like a war zone here. never seen anything like it. my place is a complete mess. thnks to all volunteers for their work.

BernieFan4Life July 14, 2023 - 2:37 am

Bernie’s right, it’s the worst since 1927! And what are our politicians doing about climate change? not enough! We need more action, less talk.

MarthaBakes July 14, 2023 - 3:22 am

Props to chef Andrew Molen! Despite his own restaurants being damaged, he’s focusing on feeding local residents & first responders. community spirit is everything in times like this.


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