Continents

What to Know About Vermont’s Devastating Floods

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In the wake of a powerful storm that dumped as much as nine inches of rain on parts of Vermont, residents in cities and towns across the state are only beginning to grapple with the destruction caused by the flooding unleashed by the historic deluge.

Though skies have cleared since Monday’s storm, rivers are spilling over their banks, dams are filling up, and forecasters are warning of more rain in the coming days.

Here’s what to know about the flooding:

The storm first struck New York State on Sunday, with one death attributed to fast-moving floodwaters there. Within only four hours, more than seven inches of rain fell at West Point. Several train lines in the state, such as Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem lines, were suspended on Monday as a result of fallen trees, mud and boulders blocking the tracks.

The system then headed north into New England, causing severe flooding and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes in Vermont.

At least two of Vermont’s rivers — the Winooski, which runs through Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, and the Lamoille — surpassed levels that they had reached during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

The flooding shut down major roads and state highways, and city officials in Montpelier issued an emergency order on Tuesday temporarily closing the flooded downtown area.

Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont described the flooding as “historic and catastrophic” and said on Tuesday that thousands of residents had lost their homes, businesses and more.

As of Tuesday, Vermont officials said that no injuries or deaths had been reported, but they cautioned that the state was still in the “earliest stages of this disaster.” Already, more than 100 rescues had been carried out, officials said, as teams used boats and helicopters to pull people from flooded homes and cars.

One of the biggest worries has been whether the Wrightsville Dam, just north of downtown Montpelier, will exceed its capacity.

William Fraser, the Montpelier city manager, said on Tuesday that the dam was nearly full and could potentially spill into the North Branch River.

“This has never happened since the dam was built, so there is no precedent for potential damage,” he said.

By Tuesday afternoon, city officials said that the water was only a foot below the dam’s auxiliary spillway, but that the rate at which the water was rising had slowed.

“At this time, it is difficult to determine if there will be a spillway activation,” the officials said in a statement. “A spillway activation is how the structure is designed to operate, and it does not mean a dam failure.”

The flooding and storm debris forced the closure of dozens of roads across the state, including Interstate 89, which was shut down on Monday night, stranding many motorists overnight.

With some areas in Vermont still inaccessible by road and with rescues taking priority over damage assessment, officials said they would need time before they could give a full accounting of the toll on homes, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Chief Eric W. Nordenson of the Montpelier Police Department said Tuesday that the city’s resources “were spread very thin” by the calls for help.

In other towns, such as Londonderry, which was heavily affected by the flooding on Monday, the cleanup was already underway.

In New York, officials on Monday estimated that the damage would likely run into the tens of millions of dollars to repair.

“My friends, this is the new normal,” Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Monday, referring to climate change’s effect on flooding. People must “be prepared for the worst,” she said, “because the worst continues to happen.”

According to the National Weather Service, Wednesday is forecast to be generally sunny across Vermont. However, showers and thunderstorms are possible Thursday, along with a slight risk of excessive rain — described as “a few additional inches” — across much of Vermont, New Hampshire and eastern New York.

Governor Scott warned on Tuesday that, though the sun was shining, this episode was not over, as the rivers could still rise.

“This is nowhere near over,” he said.

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