Intense storms leave Northeast streets flooded, force evacuations and close downtown in Vermont’s capital


Intense rainstorms inundating the Northeast are turning streets into rivers, forcing evacuations and prompted officials in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, to close its downtown area.

The catastrophic flooding threatening Vermont has drawn comparisons to Hurricane Irene in 2011, which left entire communities submerged and killed at least 40 people across the US. Over 3 million people are under flood alerts Tuesday.

Montpelier issued an emergency order closing its downtown area until at least noon on Tuesday, due to the flooding. The city manager said a “potentially dangerous situation” is facing the capital.

“The Wrightsville Dam only has 6 feet of storage capacity left. If water exceeds capacity, the first spillway will release water into the North Branch River,” city manager William Fraser said in a Facebook post. “This has never happened since the dam was built so there is no precedent for potential damage. There would be a large amount of water coming into Montpelier which would drastically add to the existing flood damage.”

With water in downtown Montpelier running from knee to waist deep, residents stranded in their homes and businesses and roads closed, Fraser told CNN the situation is looking much worse than it did in the 2011 flooding.

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are under a lower risk for excessive rainfall than they were Monday, but the threat of flooding persists. Officials are working to address damage and urgent needs in Vermont and New York, which suffered the brunt of the flooding Monday. The flooding left at least one person dead in New York’s Orange County.

The situation in Vermont highlights the potential for catastrophic flooding that has not been seen in this part of the country since 2011,” the National Weather Service said.

“We have not seen rainfall like this since Irene, and in some places, it will surpass even that,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Monday. Vermont remains under a state of emergency, after flooding forced dozens of rescues and evacuations Monday.

Two areas in the state, Weston and South Londonderry, were left inaccessible due to flooding, and search and rescue teams were working to regain access and perform welfare checks Monday, the state’s Urban Search and Rescue team coordinator Mike Cannon told reporters.

Betsy Hart called 911 when the floodwaters suddenly started rising fast Monday at the basement of her Chester property in Windsor County.

“Water was rising quickly after being pretty tame most of the morning,” Hart told CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “All of a sudden it was in the house.”

Hart said she’s never experienced flooding like what she saw Monday. “It was too close for comfort,” she said.

“With Hurricane Irene, the water was raging like this but it never really got to the house,” she said, standing on a road near her home as water rushed nearby.

Numerous rivers across Vermont have been rising amid the downpours, with some swelling higher than levels reached during Hurricane Irene. The Winooski River at Montpelier rose nearly 14 feet Monday and passed major flood stage as the water continued to climb, threatening further flooding.

Nearly a dozen different areas across Vermont, from the Connecticut River in the south to the Missisquoi River in the north, were expected to see moderate or major flooding before rivers begin dropping later Tuesday.

Vermont’s Ball Mountain Dam and the Townshend Dam, are expected to overflow their spillways early Tuesday morning and “release unprecedented quantities of water,” the US Army Corps of Engineers warned Monday night. Warning of “severe flooding,” the agency urged residents in threatened low-lying areas of nearby Vermont and New Hampshire communities to evacuate.

In New York, where six counties are under a state of emergency, a 35-year-old woman died after being swept away by floodwater as she tried to evacuate her Orange County home Sunday. The flooding has caused “easily tens of millions of dollars in damage,” county Executive Steve Neuhaus said Monday.

Some areas in New York were hammered with more than 8 inches of rain within a 24-hour period.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state will very likely meet the threshold of $37 million in statewide damages and become eligible to receive funding from FEMA.

“You can see highways, roads and bridges that are still unpassable, homes that have been destroyed. We still have people without power and as we talked about earlier, one woman actually lost her life, so it is still treacherous in many of these regions,” Hochul said.

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