Vermont Flooding Spares Few In Statewide Disaster

08/29/11 7:34AM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) Tropical Storm Irene washed into Vermont with torrential rains that spread floods from one end of the state to the other.

The storm dropped four to seven inches of rain in just a few hours and sent rivers raging through town after town.

As VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, the scope of the devastation drew comparisons to the historic 1927 floods.

(Sneyd) The toll in lives disrupted, property damaged and nerves frayed is staggering.

And Scott Whittier of the National Weather Service says it's historic.

(Whittier) "'73 was a signifidant flood across the state. Before that was '27. Now you're talking 2011. So we get these maybe every 40, 50 years. So it's pretty much a once-in-a-generation type of flood."

(Sneyd) Up and down the state, town after town was swept by the relentless rains of Irene. Rivers flooded, roads washed away and bridges gave way.

Alec Portalupi coordinated the Vermont Transportation Agency's response at the state Emergency Operations Center.

He says even VTrans struggled to respond.

(Portalupi) "We actually have crews that are stranded on the roads where we've had washouts on both sides of them. They're literally stuck there because they can't move because of all the road washouts."

(Sneyd) For many towns, the devastation was a shocking repeat of the floods of just this past spring.

In Waterbury, village trustee Natalie Howell walked through town checking on the town's response and marveling at a second bout of flooding.

(Howell) "It is. It's quite breathtaking to see how nature can overtake the community. But w'ere in good shape right now."

(Sneyd) But even as she spoke, more roads were closed in Waterbury.

And even at the nearby state Emergency Operations Center, workers responding to the crisis kept a wary eye on the Winooski. In a matter of minutes it rose and inundated cars and trailers parked behind the state office complex.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd in Waterbury.

(Host) Those floodwaters continued rising in Waterbury and eventually washed into the state public safety building.

So the Emergency Operations Center had to be evacuated. It's been relocated to a Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Burlington that was set up to deal with floods from this past spring.

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