NATIONAL NEWS

Vermont braces for more rain in wake of historic flooding

Jul 13, 2023, 10:46 AM | Updated: 7:42 pm

Vermont prepared for the next round of storms — and possibly a tornado — as people took advantage of calm weather Thursday to clean up from historic flooding that damaged thousands of homes, businesses and roads, and left some residents stranded.

As floodwaters receded, the good news was that there were no new rescue missions, dams were holding up and more roads reopened. The bad news was that strong thunderstorms were expected to move into parts of the state by Thursday night, which could cause more flash flooding, Gov. Phil Scott said at a news conference. Conditions could spawn a tornado, he said. And the state could get more heavy rain over the weekend.

“The period we are more concerned about is Sunday because that could be more widespread and heavier, but not nearly on the scale of what we saw earlier in the week,” National Weather Service meteorologist Seth Kutikoff said.

Scott said it’s important for Vermonters to be vigilant, and that includes not going into the water.

“We’ve seen many pictures on social media of kids swimming in floodwaters. This is not typical rainwater — it’s filled with chemicals, oil, waste, and more. It’s simply not safe,” he said.

New Hampshire, where some roads, towns and campgrounds were flooded in several western counties, was also in the latest storm’s path.

“We strongly encourage residents and visitors, especially campers staying at sites along rivers and streams, and campgrounds in low-lying parts, to know what to do if evacuation is needed,” said Robert Buxton, director of the state’s Homeland Security and Management agency.

Other New England states to the south were also drying out, including Connecticut, where officials warned boaters and others about dangerous debris in the Connecticut River, including large trees. A dock with several boats attached was washed away in Glastonbury, just south of Hartford, and was seen floating down the river a few towns away.

In Vermont, communities were cleaning up from the floods that were more destructive in some places than 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene and regarded as the worst natural disaster since the 1927 floods, which killed dozens of people and caused widespread destruction. Unlike that event, no injuries or fatalities have been reported with this week’s flooding.

Transportation officials were moving equipment to areas that were considered more flood-prone to prepare for the storms as they continued to evaluate damage, including to rail lines. Amtrak and other railroad service has been suspended.

One death in New York was blamed on the storm — a woman whose body was found after she was swept away in Fort Montgomery, a small Hudson River community about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of New York City.

Scott said he has submitted a request for a major disaster declaration to President Joe Biden. “It’s separate from, and in addition to, the federal emergency declaration the president already signed” on Tuesday, he said. If approved, the declaration would provide federal support for recovering communities.

In Vermont’s small state capital of Montpelier, where the swollen Winooski River had flooded downtown, the elevator at City Hall was damaged, making the building inaccessible, spokesperson Evelyn Prim said.

“Cleanup from the hazardous floodwater damage in City Hall is expected to take several months. Because of this, City Hall will be closing until further notice,” she said.

Offers of help poured in, including free pet food from an animal shelter in Morrisville and a donation collection for water and nonperishable food items at the University of Vermont. A Vermont Main Street Flood Relief Fund was set up to help small businesses and the Vermont Community Foundation established a fund to help longer-term efforts for people and communities. An annual concert, the Do Good Fest in Montpelier, will be livestreamed and act as a fundraiser.

“One of the defining truths about Vermont is that Vermonters look out for one another,” said Dan Smith, the foundation’s CEO. “We saw it during the pandemic; we saw it during Tropical Storm Irene.”

___

McCormack reported from Concord, New Hampshire. Associated Press reporters Lisa Rathke in Marshfield, Vermont, David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, and Michael Casey in Boston contributed to this report.

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Vermont braces for more rain in wake of historic flooding