Heavy rainfall that began over the weekend has inundated the Northeast, killing at least one person across the region and prompting officials in Montpelier, Vt. to close the capital city’s downtown area due to intense flooding.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York were also among the affected, as more than 13 million Americans were under flood watches and warnings on Monday.
The extreme flooding unusually occurred as El Niño, a climate phenomenon, has begun. Across the northern U.S. and Canada El Niño typically brings warm, dryer temperatures, while the southern U.S. faces greater precipitation and flooding.
A slow-moving storm system stuck between Greenland and Canada and incoming tropical moisture from the south were the main cause of this week’s storms, per the Washington Post. However, the extreme rainfall is also indicative of greater changes caused by climate change. Flooding will only become more common as the atmosphere becomes warmer, causing the air to hold greater moisture and thus create more precipitation.
Several New York counties were under flood watch on Tuesday with some regions seeing more than eight inches of rain accumulate from Sunday through Monday. Flash floods were so strong at some points that one 43-year-old woman was swept away by the water when attempting to leave her home.
“We yelled at her, ‘get back in the house.’ She went back in and panicked again. She grabbed the dog and came out. As soon as she hit the road, water hit her and took her down,” the victim’s father told NBC New York.
Vermont, however, has faced the brunt of the downpours with reports of flooding at levels greater than what was seen during Tropical Storm Irene (marking one of the worst floods in almost 100 years), according to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. “Make no mistake—the devastation and flooding we’re experiencing across Vermont is historic and catastrophic,” Scott added during a Tuesday press conference. The rainfall has destroyed thousands of homes and businesses as water sat waist-high in some areas of the state, and Montpelier is currently under a boil water notice.
Forecasts in Vermont indicate greater rainfall in the coming days, meaning the situation could worsen. Here’s a photo roundup of the flooding across Vermont to New York:
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