As rescues continue and Vermont begins what could be a yearslong recovery process from the devastating flooding that hit the Northeast this week, another round of rainfall is headed for the region – and it could bring more flash floods.
Swift water teams are still actively rescuing people who are trapped in their homes due to the rising waters from the Lamoille River, Jennifer Morrison, Vermont’s commissioner of public safety, said on News84Media News Central Wednesday. Officials have performed more than 100 evacuations and 200 rescues so far. Morrison called the situation an “absolute crisis.”
“This disaster is not over in the state of Vermont,” Morrison said
There is a slight risk of excessive rainfall for much of New England on Thursday, forecasters say, including all of Vermont, which already endured record-breaking flooding on Monday and Tuesday that turned streets into rivers.
While the risk of excessive rainfall Thursday and Friday is lower than earlier in the week, the waterlogged region is now more vulnerable to flooding. Rainfall rates of up to 1.5 inches per hour are possible across the region on Thursday, with some areas possibly getting 3 inches per hour.
The coming rain could hinder an already-daunting recovery process in Vermont.
“This is going to be a years, if not a decadelong recovery for the state of Vermont,” Morrison said.
Officials are now expecting four times the damage from Hurricane Irene, which left entire communities under water and killed at least 40 people when it hit the US in 2011. Morrison said it took Vermont 12 years to fully recover from that disaster, she said.
“We just did the last close out of that event 4 months ago,” she said.
While Vermont shifts into the recovery phase, and braces for even more potential flooding, it’s already clear that the months ahead will be difficult, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said.
“I know thousands of Vermonters have lost homes, businesses and more,” Scott said. “The devastation is far reaching.”
In Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, water rushed through the streets Tuesday, spilling into businesses in the downtown area, where a travel ban was issued, and a citywide boil water notice is in place. A canoeist could be seen paddling through eerily deserted streets as alarms from surrounding stores blared in the background.
In Barre, Vermont, storms left a deluge of mud and water in neighborhoods.
“It just came pouring through here,” Barre resident Laura Camus told News84Media affiliate WPTZ. “My house has been an island in a river this whole time.”
Adding to worries, Camus said she doesn’t live in a flood plain, so she and her neighbors don’t have flood insurance.
Heavy machinery moved through the mud-covered streets of Barre Tuesday as business owners worked indoors to clean water and sludge out of their spaces. “Our studio is going to be closed for a while. We need to replace a lot in there and I’m just clearing everything out right now,” Christina Morris of Rooted Yoga told News84Media affiliate WCAX.
Andrew Molen, a restaurateur who owns several businesses in Ludlow, Vermont, told News84Media that at least one of his restaurants was completely damaged by Monday’s flash flooding and another will need two months of repairs to reopen.
“The water almost reached the ceiling. We took a big hit this time,” Molen said. “The good thing is no one was injured.”
Montpelier, Barre, Ludlow, Londonderry, and Andover are among the hardest hit areas in Vermont.
President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the state of Vermont, authorizing FEMA to move in needed equipment and resources, the White House said Tuesday.
New Hampshire is also sending swift boat rescue crews and Black Hawk helicopters to assist with the response in Vermont, Gov. Chris Sununu said. Teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina are already in the state providing assistance and others are en route, authorities have said.
No injuries or deaths have been reported due to severe flooding in Vermont.
Scenes of neighborhoods inundated with muddy water, residents paddling through streets and sunken roadways have evoked memories of 2011’s Hurricane Irene.
Irene hit the United States as a hurricane in August 2011 and left entire communities submerged, killing more than 40 people in several Eastern states.
This week’s intense storms left floodwaters in some areas that “surpassed levels seen during Tropical Storm Irene,” Vermont’s governor said.
Montpelier was hammered by 5.28 inches of rainfall Monday, the National Weather Service in Burlington said. That’s more than any other day on record – including when Irene dropped 5.27 inches of rain on the state capital on August 28, 2011.
“Irene had about a 12-hour duration of rain, and then it was over,” the governor said. “This is different. We’ve had like 48 hours of steady rain,” he said.
Numerous rivers across Vermont rose amid the downpours, with some swelling higher than levels reached during Hurricane Irene. The Winooski River and the Lamoille River at Jeffersonville both passed major flood stage and several others were experiencing moderate flooding.
Chester, Vermont, resident Betsy Hart was reminded of the hurricane when water suddenly began rising fast at the basement of her property.
“With Hurricane Irene, the water was raging like this, but it never really got to the house,” she said as she evacuated her home while water rushed nearby.
Vermont State Rep. Kelly Pajala said she woke up Monday morning to floodwater already at the front step of her Londonderry apartment. She and her son packed up their two cats and evacuated to higher ground.
“For people who were here during Irene, it feels like a very similar experience,” she said.
Climate experts say a “perfect storm” is unfolding this summer to create deadly flooding in areas like the Northeast, while regions around the world, like the Southwest US, are scorched by record-breaking heat. Steady warming and atmospheric changes are “supercharging” regular weather events, making them longer and more intense, Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist and distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told News84Media.
Other areas hit hard by the recent rainfall are entering recovery mode.
In New York, where emergencies were declared in several counties as water inundated streets, a 35-year-old woman died after being swept away by floodwater as she tried to evacuate her Orange County home Sunday. The flooding has caused “easily tens of millions of dollars in damage,” County Executive Steve Neuhaus said Monday.
Similar scenes were seen in Oklahoma over the weekend, as heavy rain came down on the region. Strong currents swept away two children who were fishing in Oklahoma City’s Lake Overholser Monday evening. Authorities have recovered the bodies of the 10 and 11-year-olds.
Weather conditions have improved and only scattered showers are expected across the Northeast on Wednesday afternoon, particularly across northern Pennsylvania and southern New York.