Flooding in Vermont caused by unusually heavy rain is “historic and catastrophic” and “nowhere near over,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a media briefing Tuesday. More rain is expected this week.
Rainstorms have saturated the northeastern U.S., flooding New England towns and threatening to overflow the Wrightsville Dam that protects Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, from flooding.
Nearly 4 million people in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine faced flood warning, watches or alerts, USA TODAY reported Tuesday. But while other states noted flood problems, Vermont may be getting the worst of it.
Montpelier’s flooding is being considered second to the historic Flood of 1927, the worst natural disaster in state history. Rain has swollen the Winooski River in Montpelier to levels higher than those produced by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Nine inches of rain was reported in Plymouth, Vermont, and at least 30 towns recorded rainfall of 6 inches or more. More than 6,500 customers across the state lost power.
Water levels at the Wrightsville Dam were reported at 2.2 feet from the spillway early Tuesday and were rising. If the dam overflows, it would result in “a large amount of water coming into Montpelier which would drastically add to the existing flood damage,” City Manager William Fraser posted on Facebook.
Storms started late Sunday and dumped about two months’ worth of rain in Vermont in two days. Montpelier closed its downtown area until Tuesday afternoon as the North Branch of the Winooski River overflowed. Water levels were slowly receding.
According to data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parts of Vermont saw 600% of the normal rainfall for the seven days leading up to July 11.
Flash flood warnings and advisories were in effect for much of Vermont. Interstate 89 was shut down for hours between Montpelier and Middlesex, and dozens of other roads were closed, state police said.
President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency for Vermont.
Conditions eased at two other Vermont dams, the Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica and the Townshend Dam in the Townshend/Windham area. They had been expected to release “large quantities of water,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Twitter Monday night, but it said later that the water release would be smaller than anticipated.
The Connecticut River in West Lebanon, New Hampshire rose more than 14 feet on Monday, according to a U.S. Geological Survey gauge, then crested and began to fall.
USA TODAY data: Explore real-time river water levels here.
CONTRIBUTING John Bacon, Jeanine Santucci and Dinah Voyles Pulver
SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; National Weather Service