Dozens rescued in Vermont from destructive flooding as states facing multimillion-dollar clean-ups

Two months’ worth of rain fell in two days in Vermont

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Tuesday 11 July 2023 22:46 BST
Devastating floods batter Vermont as water levels continue to rise

Catastrophic flooding has swamped Vermont’s state capital amid a race to rescue dozens of residents trapped by surging waters.

Drone footage showed picturesque blocks of Montpelier under waist-high water on Tuesday after two months of rain fell in the space of 48 hours. Residents were seen canoeing along a road in front of the state capitol building, and negotiating streets on paddleboards.

The Wrightsville Dam, just north of Montpelier, was being closely watched after officials warned earlier on Tuesday that it was dangerously close to capacity and could breach, risking more flooding in the deluged town.

“As of 4.00 pm this afternoon, the Wrightsville Damis holding at maximum capacity. The Winooski and North Branch rivers continue to remain high and pose a serious threat to anyone near the floodwater,” the city government wrote on its Facebook page.

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

Some 117 rescues have been made in Vermont amid extreme flooding, public officials said on Tuesday, with 67 people evacuated from homes, businesses and vehicles and 17 animals rescued. There have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the Vermont flooding, according to emergency officials.

President Joe Biden, who is in Vilnius, Lithuania, attending the annual NATO summit, declared an emergency in the state and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide assistance.

Inland flooding alerts were in place for more than 13 millions people on Tuesday even as rains were forecast to ease and floodwaters slowly began to recede.

Slow-moving, moisture-laden storms have saturated swathes of the Northeast since the weekend and left local governments, businesses and residents facing bills for damages that will easily run into many millions of dollars.

A woman rows a paddle board in a flooded area in Montpelier, Vermont on Tuesday
A woman rows a paddle board in a flooded area in Montpelier, Vermont on Tuesday (REUTERS)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared it a “1-in-1,000-year weather event” caused by the climate crisis.

New York’s Hudson Valley has also been devastated by the flooding which has destroyed homes and major roadways, caused bridges to collapse, and damaged buildings at the historic West Point military academy.

One death has been reported in the state. Pamela Nugent, 43, died as she tried to escape her flooded home with her dog in the hamlet of Fort Montgomery, officials said.

Despite heavy rainfall easing over New England, more severe weather was brewing across the US in what has been a relentless summer of extremes.

Zyta-Rose Blow, an employee at Nelson Ace Hardware, shovels mud and silt from the shop on Main Street in Barre, Vermont on Tuesday
Zyta-Rose Blow, an employee at Nelson Ace Hardware, shovels mud and silt from the shop on Main Street in Barre, Vermont on Tuesday (EPA)

There was risk of heavy rainfall in the Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley, the National Weather Service said.

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.

Texas and other parts of the Southwest will continue to get extreme heat with advisories, watches and warnings in effect from Florida and Texas to California.

Some parts of Florida would experience record-tying/breaking temperatures in the coming days. When combined with the humidity, the “real feel” of the heat will range between 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eastern Texas will hit the upper 90s to low 100s on Tuesday, spreading northward into additional portions of the Southern Plains and Central Plains on Wednesday. High humidity will lead to heat indices up to 110F here as well.

West Texas, as well as the Desert Southwest, will not see as much humidity but the air temperature will be hotter, ranging between the mid-100s to mid-110s, posing a similarly high risk of heat-related impacts.

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