Vermont warns Montpelier dam could fail amid intense rain and tells stranded residents to get to upper floors

‘This has never happened since the dam was built so there is no precedent for potential damage,’ officials said

Louise Boyle
Tuesday 11 July 2023 17:20 BST
Devastating floods batter Vermont as water levels continue to rise

The city of Montpelier has warned that a dam near the Vermont state capital is dangerously close to capacity and could fail, causing unprecedented flooding in the city.

“The Wrightsville Dam only has 6 feet of storage capacity left,” the city wrote on Tuesday morning. The storm has dumped two months of rain on Vermont in 48 hours.

“If water exceeds capacity, the first spillway will release water into the North Branch River. 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.”

Officials also warned that with “very few evacuation options remaining” people stranded in at-risk areas may wish to go to upper floors in their houses.

The National Weather Service's office in Burlington, Vermont issued a flood warning at 11am local time on Tuesday, 11 July, for the Winooski River with major flooding forecast for Montpelier, Moretown, Waterbury and Essex Junction.

In an update later on Tuesday morning, the Montpelier Police Department said multiple water rescue teams were positioned in Montpelier and they urged the public to please stay out of the downtown and off city roads.

The Montpelier Police Department itself was forced to relocate to the water treatment plant in the neighbouring town of Berlin due to heavy flooding in the department’s basement, city hall and the fire department.

“Waters continue to rise in the downtown area with predictions that water levels will begin to lower around noon,” the police said.

“The Wrightsville Dam water levels have continued to increase and are being monitored on site by the Vermont Dam Safety Management group. There is a possibility that the dam has some spill over which can affect our current water levels downtown.”

The Main Street Middle School gym has been opened as a temporary shelter until buses can once again pick up residents and transport them to the Barre Auditorium, staffed by the Red Cross.

Major slow-moving storms have saturated other parts of the Northeast since the weekend.

There have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the Vermont flooding, according to emergency officials.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings and advisories for much of the state from the Massachusetts line north to the Canadian border on Tuesday.

The slow-moving storm reached New England after hitting parts of New York, where one person died as she was trying to leave her home during flash flooding, and Connecticut on Sunday.

Attributing the role of the climate crisis in individual flooding events takes significant scientific analysis. However, as the planet warms, more moisture is held in the atmosphere, which means that storms bring the possibility of a lot more rain.

This is a breaking news story and is being updated

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