Saturday, July 20, 2024

Vermont floods: New dangers threaten Vermont as heavy rains could inundate already flooded towns



CNN

That is a catastrophic flood Countless houses were damaged or destroyed Vermont is slowly retreating, but new threats are on the rise.

“It may not be over. With rain in the forecast — and it’s not going anywhere — we could see the water rise again,” Vermont Gov. Bill Scott said Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued a new round of flood watches for parts of New England — including the devastated parts of Vermont — beginning Thursday.

“Additional rain is expected Thursday afternoon as a system of strong thunderstorms moves through,” the National Weather Service in Burlington said.

Charles Krupa/AP

A tractor clears water from a business in Barre, Vermont, Wednesday after a storm dumped nearly two months of rain in two days.

It is not yet known exactly how many homes and businesses have already been destroyed by flooding caused by heavy rains earlier this week.

“We are still in active response mode and there are many rescues underway,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison said Wednesday. More than 200 people have been rescued since Sunday, he said.

Although no loss of life has been reported due to the floods, the governor has estimated that thousands of lives have been uplifted.

“I know thousands of Vermonters have lost homes, businesses and more,” Scott said. “The disaster is far away.”

The good news: “Generally speaking, the rivers are cresting, and river flooding will continue to blow throughout the day,” Morrison said Wednesday. But, he added, “this disaster is far from over in the state of Vermont.”

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In addition to Thursday’s high risk of flooding, residents of submerged homes face new dangers.

“Many disaster-related deaths occur after the acute phase and during cleanup and recovery,” Morrison said.

“Those returning to flooded homes should exercise caution when entering. “Do not turn on your circuit breaker or use any power sources until you have your system checked by a licensed electrician,” he said.

“For those with damaged property: Please report your damages to 211 as we collect data for a possible federal disaster notification.”

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to Vermont to survey the damage and urged residents to be aware of post-flood hazards.

“It only takes about 6 inches of water to wipe someone’s feet,” FEMA Administrator Dean Criswell said Wednesday. “With that water, we see a lot of debris. We see downed power lines. We see things that can cause additional damage.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

Residents wade through partially submerged cars Tuesday in Montpelier, Vermont.

Vermont’s worst-hit areas included Barre, Ludlow, Londonderry, Andover and the state capital, Montpelier — the normally bustling downtown district was largely deserted, except for the occasional canoeist paddling the street.

Charles Krupa/AP

Equipment cleans up mud in a neighborhood Wednesday in Barre, Vermont.

Barre, Vermont, watery and muddy surroundings.

“It all poured down here,” Barre resident Laura Camus said CNN affiliate WPTZ. “My house has been an island in a river this whole time.”

Adding to the misery, Camus added that she doesn’t live in a flood plain, so neither she nor her neighbors have flood insurance.

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President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the state of Vermont, authorizing FEMA to move needed equipment and resources. White House said on Tuesday.

New Hampshire sent speedboat rescue crews and Black Hawk helicopters to help in Vermont, Gov. Chris Sununu said. Officials said groups from Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina are already providing assistance in the state.

With all the help, “it’s a years — if not a decade — long recovery for the state of Vermont,” said Morrison, the state’s public safety commissioner.

Andrew Molen, a restaurateur who owns several businesses in Ludlow, told CNN that one of his restaurants was destroyed by Monday’s flash flood and another will need two months of repairs to reopen.

“The water was almost up to the ceiling. We had a big hit this time,” Molen said. “Good thing nobody got hurt.”

The public safety commissioner praised the “common sense of Vermonters” and emergency personnel for their “life-saving work during this disaster” for the lack of fatalities.

But those who lost their homes or businesses face a tougher journey. Morrison encouraged volunteers interested in helping with the rescue to visit vermont.gov/volunteer.

Charles Krupa/AP

Volunteers clean a downtown parking lot in Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, on Wednesday.

Steady warming and atmospheric changes are “supercharging” regular weather events, making them longer and more intense, said Michael E. Mann told CNN.

Climatologists say a “The Perfect Storm” That’s leading to deadly flooding in places like the Northeast, while other parts of the world — including the American Southwest — are being scorched by record-breaking heat.

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Vermont’s Sen. Peter Welch said he wants to know how much climate change may have played a role in the devastating floods in his state.

“I spoke to the head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) yesterday and asked that question,” Welch said at a news conference Wednesday.

“As reported, warmer weather — especially over the ocean — then comes across the country and here in Vermont, that means more moisture in the air,” Welch said. “All the moisture in the air turns into rain.”

Scenes of neighborhoods submerged in muddy water, residents wading through streets and submerged roads evoked memories of 2011’s Hurricane Irene.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

Residents assess flood damage Tuesday in Montpelier, Vermont.

Irene hit the United States as a hurricane in August 2011 and inundated entire communities, killing more than 40 people in several eastern states.

This week’s severe storms left some areas with floodwaters that “exceeded levels seen during Tropical Storm Irene,” Vermont’s governor said.

Montpelier was hit with 5.28 inches of rain Monday, the National Weather Service in Burlington said. That’s more than any other day on record — including August 28, 2011, when Irene dumped 5.27 inches of rain on the state capital.

“Irene had about 12 hours of rain and then it was over,” the governor said. “This is different. We had 48 hours of steady rain.

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