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Vermont Hit By Worst Flood In A Century After Record Rainfall

Deluge of over 9 inches causes widespread devastation, dam reaches near capacity.
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A deluge of epic proportions dropped more than 9 inches of rain across parts of Vermont Monday, resulting in one of the worst floods in nearly 100 years. Roads and communities were completely inundated and officials warned the situation might get worse before it gets better.

Onlookers check out a flooded road on July 10, 2023, in Chester, Vermont. Torrential rain and flooding has affected millions of people from Vermont south to North Carolina. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images) 

In Vermont’s state capital of Montpelier, a “potentially dangerous situation” was unfolding as one of the dams that provides flood protection to the city was nearing its capacity. The Wrightsville Dam, located on the Winooski River, was 1 foot from reaching its capacity early Tuesday afternoon, according to the city police.

“If water exceeds capacity, the first spillway will release water into the North Branch River,” wrote Fraser in a Facebook update on Tuesday morning. “This has never happened since the dam was built, so there is no precedent for potential damage.”

City officials in Montpelier issued an “emergency health order,” which will close the downtown area until at least noon Tuesday to allow officials to assess safety risks and begin cleanup efforts.

“This is the second-biggest flood we’ve ever had in the city of Montpelier,” said Montpelier Mayor Jack McCullough said in an interview on AccuWeather Early Tuesday. “The only one worse has been the historic flood in 1927 that affected much of the state.”

According to McCullough, the Montpelier city hall, fire department and police department have all been evacuated. He said the city government is operating out of an emergency operation center in the city’s water plant, which is located on higher ground.

Additionally, three radio towers, which are used to dispatch fire and ambulance services, were not functional as of Tuesday morning, according to the Montpelier Police.

On Tuesday morning, while visiting Vilnius, Lithuania, for the NATO summit, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Vermont and authorized Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

Help from additional states, such as New Hampshire, North Carolina and Connecticut, has been deployed in Vermont.

Floodwaters swallowed several streets across Vermont Monday. According to the Vermont State Police, at least two dozen roads across the state have been closed due to flooding.

On Tuesday morning, water levels were slowly receding in Weston, Vermont, which is located roughly 69 miles south of Montpelier. Residents were able to see firsthand the damage the water left behind.

“Irene was pretty similar,” said Weston resident Luke Bonang told Storm Chaser Brandon Clement as he stood in front of a water-damaged and cracked roadway. “We saw this 12 years ago, but this seems to be a little bit worse.”

In 2011, Irene brought upwards of 8 inches of rain to Vermont during an 18-hour span. The storm killed three people in Vermont and left more than $700 million in damages, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The highest rainfall total in Vermont came from Calais, which is a town located about 10 miles north of Montpelier. A total of 9.61 inches of rain was measured in the town over a 48-hour period ending on Tuesday morning.

A tractor makes its way through a flooded road after heavy rain on July 10, 2023, in Londonderry, Vermont. Torrential rain and flooding has affected millions of people from Vermont south to North Carolina. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Northeast rainfall reports ending on Tuesday morning.

Plymouth, Vermont, measured 9.05 inches of rain. Plymouth is located roughly 52 miles south of Montpelier.

Rainfall totals surpassed double digits in New York. In Putnam Valley, New York, which is located in New York’s Hudson Valley, 10.49 inches of rain was measured during a 48-hour period ending Tuesday morning. This was the highest rainfall total of the storm.

The slow-moving storm that dumped more than 9 inches of rain in Vermont also brought deadly flooding to New York, among other Northeastern states. One of the worst-hit places was New York’s Hudson Valley, where a woman died Sunday amid the flash floods.

Pamela Nugent, 43, died in Fort Montgomery, New York, as she tried to escape her flooded home on Sunday, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told The Associated Press.

“She was trying to get through (the flooding) with her dog,” said Neuhaus speaking to the AP. “She was overwhelmed by tidal wave-type waves.”

According to officials, the dog and the victim’s family were OK.

“Orange County experienced a one-in-1,000-years weather event [Sunday] night,” New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press conference on Monday morning. “The rain has subsided, but the crisis is not over.”

Late Sunday, Hochul declared a state of emergency for Orange County due to the deadly flash floods. Roughly an hour later, Hochul expanded the state of emergency to include Ontario County, which is located just southeast of Rochester, due to the significant flooding the area was experiencing.

“Make no mistake: This is our new normal,” said Hochul. “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last generation with a shot at doing anything about it.”

Trooper Steven V. Nevel of the New York State Police told The New York Times that several bridges had collapsed, and many roads were impassable, including the Palisades Interstate Parkway, which is a heavily traveled road in the area.

Highland Falls, a town in Orange County, was unreachable from Interstate 87 or Route 6 due to the flooding, according to News 12.

The Deputy Commissioner of Orange County, New York, Alan Mack told AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno and AccuWeather Senior Television Meteorologist Kristina Shalhoup that floodwaters Sunday evening completely cut off the village of Highland Falls from surrounding areas.

“The roads have been washed out, and where they weren’t, the low-lying roads were flooded,” said Mack. “People that were there were stuck there and people on the outside, couldn’t get in.”

Mack said water levels receded a bit Monday morning, allowing emergency officials to get in and set up a command post. He emphasized that people should remain off the roadways until the water fully recedes.

The Metro-North Railroad service between Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie was temporarily suspended Sunday due to the flooding rain. By Tuesday morning, a partial restoration of train services resumed on the Hudson Line between Grand Central Terminal and Peekskill, ABC7 reported.

Metro-North Railroad services will continue to offer a limited bus service for essential travelers between Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie.

AccuWeather’s preliminary estimate of the total damage and economic loss from the heavy rain and significant flooding in the Northeast over the weekend is between $3-5 billion.

“This estimate is preliminary because many of the areas that were the hardest hit are more rural communities and have not yet reported complete information about damage, injuries, and other impacts,” said AccuWeather Vice President of Operations Quality and Innovation Marshall Moss said on Monday evening.

AccuWeather’s damage estimate incorporates independent methods to evaluate the direct and indirect impacts of the storm, including both insured and uninsured losses. It is based on a variety of sources, statistics, and unique techniques AccuWeather uses to estimate the damage to property, job and wage losses, crops, infrastructure damage, interruption of the supply chain, auxiliary business losses and flight delays or cancelations.

“To put this recent Northeast flooding event into context, the AccuWeather estimate for the total damage and economic loss from Hurricane Irene, which also brought catastrophic flooding in 2011 to some of these same areas, would be $12-17B,” said Moss.


Produced in association with AccuWeather

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond

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