Irene causes heavy flooding in Vermont
The soil was already saturated from a wet spring and soaking rains just last week.
Irene arrived quicker than expected and its unpredictabile path made it difficult to determine the areas where residents should be evacuated, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont’s Emergency Operations Center.
“We didn’t know where the storm was going to hit,” Bosma said. “Vermont being so mountainous –- you never know if it’s going to fall on the east side of the mountains or the west side of the mountains. It could come spilling down either side. Evacuations beforehand just weren’t possible.”
He added that some individual towns began evacuating before the flooding started.
“The National Weather Service told us that all major rivers and streams had the potential to flood –- many of them have, and are, and probably will still going into the evening,” Bosma said.
Emergency management officials began getting calls about “massive flooding” before 9 a.m. Sunday. A 20-year-old woman was swept away in the Deerfield River in southern Vermont and is presumed dead.
Some of the worst flooding was along the Winooski River, which begins in Cabot and flows about 90 miles to Lake Champlain. The Winooski was getting dangerously close even to the state’s emergency management center in Waterbury:
“I’m looking behind us and it’s starting to creep toward us,” Bosma said.
State authorities' main focus was evacuating residents in flooded areas. Swift water rescue teams responded to calls throughout the day Sunday, and the National Guard brought in high water trucks that were dispatched upstate.
“Even with all those assets we haven’t been able to get to everyone yet,” Bosma said. “Some people have just had to wait it out until the water subsided.”
Bosma said residents from low-lying areas were being advised to stay with friends who live on higher ground, “but on the other side of the coin, if you don’t need to be on the roads — stay off the roads.”
“People are becoming stranded on the road when they hit floodwaters,” Bosma said, “and there just aren’t enough emergency responders to get to everyone.”
-- Maeve Reston in Groton, Conn.
Photo: Derrick Arbuckle watches from the top of a parking garage as the Whetstone Brook floods downtown Brattleboro, Vt. Credit: Chris Bertelsen / The Brattleboro Reformer