Wide Swath Of Vermont Reels From Flash Floods

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(Host) A wide swath of northern and central Vermont is still reeling at this hour from flash floods that washed through homes, businesses and cars.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, damage has been widespread, and many fear that new storms in the forecast could make matters worse.

(Sneyd) The Winooski River between about Richmond and its headwaters in Cabot turned into a torrent under the assault of relentless thunderstorms.

And so did rivers and streams stretching farther east to the Passumpsic River in St. Johnsbury.

National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson says an unusual phenomenon was responsible.

(Hanson) "It was a feature we call training thunderstorms. So you think of a line of thunderstorms and each individual thunderstorm cell is like a box car on a train. And instead of the whole line moving, instead the line is stationary and those cells act like a train and several storms just move over the same location."

(Sneyd) This particular train sat over a line of communities from Waterbury to Barre and Montpelier. It extended east through Plainfield, Cabot and Danville and beyond St. Johnsbury.

Hanson says it was relentless.

(Hanson) "The thunderstorms rode along that cold front and just repeatedly hit those same areas with rain over and over and over."

(Sneyd) Rainfall in the affected area totaled 4 to as much as 7 inches in the span of just a few hours.

And then the runoff began barreling down the rivers. The gauge in Montpelier reached 17.7 feet. The only time it was higher was in the flood of 1927 when the height was 27.1 feet.

Downtowns in Waterbury, Montpelier, Barre and St. Johnsbury were inundated. So were villages across the region.

Four shelters opened to house people who were forced from their homes. The facilities in Berlin and St. Johnsbury have since closed.

But in Montpelier, a shelter at the National Life building was open. And the Barre Auditorium was available in that city.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd

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