Rivers Jump Banks And Rush Through Northern Vermont Communities

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(Host) Rivers across northern Vermont jumped their banks when strong storms and spring snowmelt came rushing out of the mountains over the past couple of days.

That forced officials to close some schools and many roads.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) Route 128 between Essex and Westford is usually a pretty quiet road as it passes through farm fields on the way to suburban homes in Chittenden County. But right now, it passes through a lake. Water is washing over the pavement, what pavement is left. One side of the road has been washed away and part of the river is still flowing through it.

David Cota has lived in Essex Center not far from the Browns River for a long time.

(Cota) "This is the first time it’s been over the road on the Essex side of this culvert in 30 years, to give you some idea how high the water is this time."

(Sneyd) The Browns River and a smaller adjacent stream spilled out of their banks and filled a large cornfield for acres.

A tractor sat on one side of the highway and a manure spreader was on the other. Both were surrounded by water.

Less than 12 hours earlier, as heavy rain continued to wash off Mount Mansfield and surrounding mountains, the scene was even more dramatic.

Sam Hines of the Vermont Transportation Agency was the first state worker to arrive.

(Hines) Hines: "The whole road was pretty much covered in that one section over there."

Sneyd: "How deep do you think it was?"

Hines: "Oh, 2 to 3 feet probably, in some spots."

(Sneyd) A similar story was told across a wide swath of northern Vermont, from Lake Champlain to the Northeast Kingdom.

Many back roads washed out, isolating homeowners and making it impossible for school buses to pass.

James Jennings has photographs of the gully that was cut through a road near his home in Duxbury.

(Jennings) "It’s a good nine-feet deep and it’s the entire width of the road and that’s got to be 30-40 feet long. So it’s an enormous hole."

(Sneyd) Many roads around Lamoille County were damaged. Governor Peter Shumlin toured Johnson, one of the harder hit communities.

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 (Shumlin) “FEMA will be coming in tomorrow, assessing damage. We’re obviously concerned about the forecast for tomorrow afternoon.”

(Sneyd) As bad as it is for many towns, this might not be the end of it.

(Hear water rushing through culvert)

Back in Essex, homeowner David Cota peers over a bridge to water gushing through a culvert and then glances back at the view of the mountains in the distance.

(Cota) "If we get another rain like we had last night we’re gonna start this all over again tonight and tomorrow. So, I may not have to worry about mowing my lower lawn this year because it won’t be there."

(Sneyd) For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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