The state began new flood protection efforts after being battered by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Many appeared to be effective, but experts say more will be needed as storms become more extreme.
Flood damage in Barre, Vt., on Wednesday.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times
Supported by
Jenna RussellRichard Beaven and
Jenna Russell reported from Waterbury, Vt., Richard Beaven from Ludlow, Vt., and Hilary Swift from Johnson, Vt.
Vermont, a state known for peaceful green mountains, grazing cows and tidy covered bridges, is not often seen as a place where mudslides threaten highways, rivers churn with debris and murky, propane-fouled floodwaters fill downtown streets.
But those kinds of images of destruction were seared into memory when Tropical Storm Irene battered Vermont in 2011, and led to a drastic reassessment of how to protect the state against storms supercharged by a warming climate.
A forceful storm walloped Vermont again this week, causing severe flooding, damaging thousands of homes and businesses, and revealing the effectiveness of some mitigation measures taken since Irene. At the same time, officials and experts said, the storm demonstrated the need for ongoing adaptation, as storms become more extreme and less predictable.
“You hope that every event like this keeps people alert, and thinking of the future,” said Frank Magilligan, a Dartmouth College geography professor and river scientist who has studied flood hydrology and the regional effects of Irene. “It’s not going to be a one-off, and you can’t put your head in the sand.”
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