As rescues continue and Vermont begins what could be a years-long recovery process from devastating floods that battered the Northeast this week, another round of rainfall is headed for the region — and it could bring more flash flooding.
Swift Water crews are still actively rescuing people who are trapped in their homes due to the rising waters of the Lamoille River, Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison told CNN News Central on Wednesday. Officials have so far conducted more than 100 evacuations and 200 rescues. Morrison called the situation an “absolute crisis”.
“This disaster is not over in the state of Vermont,” Morrison said
There is a slight risk of excessive rainfall for much of New England on Thursday, forecasters say, including all of Vermont, which already experienced record flooding on Monday and Tuesday that turned streets into rivers.
While the risk of excessive rainfall on Thursday and Friday is lower than earlier in the week, the waterlogged region is now more vulnerable to flooding. Rainfall rates of up to 1.5 inches per hour are possible across the region Thursday, with some areas getting 3 inches per hour.
The rain ahead could hamper an already daunting recovery process in Vermont.
“This is going to be a year if not a decade recovery for the state of Vermont,” Morrison said.
Officials now expect four times the damage from Hurricane Irene, which left entire communities under water and killed at least 40 people when it hit the U.S. in 2011. Morrison said it took Vermont 12 years to fully recover from that disaster, she said.
“We just did the last event wrap 4 months ago,” she said.
As Vermont moves into the recovery phase and prepares for even more potential flooding, it’s already clear that the coming months will be difficult, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said.
“I know thousands of Vermonters have lost their homes, businesses and more,” Scott said. “The devastation is far-reaching.”
In Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, water rushed through the streets Tuesday, spilling into downtown businesses, where a travel ban has been issued and a citywide boil water advisory is in effect. A canoeist could be seen paddling through the eerily deserted streets as alarms from the surrounding shops sounded in the background.
In Barre, Vermont, the storms left a deluge of mud and water in neighborhoods.
“Everything poured in here,” said Barre resident Laura Camus CNN affiliate WPTZ. “My house has been an island in a river all this time.”
Adding to the worries, Camus said she doesn’t live in a flood plain, so she and her neighbors don’t have flood insurance.
Heavy machinery moved through the mud-covered streets of Barre on Tuesday as business owners worked inside to clear water and mud from their premises. “Our studio will be closed for a while. We have to replace a lot in there and I’m just cleaning everything up now,” said Christina Morris of Rooted Yoga. CNN affiliate WCAX.
Andrew Molen, a restaurateur who owns several businesses in Ludlow, Vermont, told CNN that at least one of his restaurants was completely damaged by Monday’s flash floods, and another will need two months of repairs to reopen. .
“The water almost reached the ceiling. We got a big hit this time,” Molen said. “Good thing no one was hurt.”
Montpelier, Barre, Ludlow, Londonderry and Andover are among the hardest hit areas in Vermont.
President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state of Vermont, authorizing FEMA to move in the necessary equipment and resources, White House he said on Tuesday.
New Hampshire is also sending fast boat rescue crews and Black Hawk helicopters to help with the response in Vermont, Gov. Chris Sununu said. Crews from Connecticut, Massachusetts and North Carolina are already in the state providing assistance, and more are on the way, authorities said.
No injuries or deaths have been reported from severe flooding in Vermont.
Scenes of neighborhoods flooded with muddy water, residents paddling through submerged streets and roads evoked memories of 2011’s Hurricane Irene.
Irene hit the United States as a hurricane in August 2011 and left entire communities submerged, killing more than 40 people in several eastern states.
Intense storms this week left some areas with flooding that “exceeded levels seen during Tropical Storm Irene,” Vermont’s governor said.
Montpelier was hit with 5.28 inches of rainfall on Monday, the National Weather Service in Burlington said. That’s more than any other day on record — including when Irene dumped 5.27 inches of rain on the state capital on Aug. 28, 2011.
“Irene had about 12 hours of rain and then it was over,” the governor said. “This is different. We had about 48 hours of constant rain,” he said.
Numerous rivers in Vermont rose amid the rains, with some swells higher than levels reached during Hurricane Irene. The Winooski River and the Lamoille River at Jeffersonville both passed major flood stages, and others experienced moderate flooding.
Betsy Hart, a resident of Chester, Vermont, recalled the hurricane when water suddenly began rising rapidly in the basement of her property.
“With Hurricane Irene, the water came in like that, but it never really got into the house,” she said as she evacuated her home as water flowed nearby.
Vermont state Rep. Kelly Pajala said she woke up Monday morning to already flooded water on the front step of her Londonderry apartment. She and her son packed up their two cats and evacuated to higher ground.
“For people who were here during Irene, it feels like a very similar experience,” she said.
Climate experts say that a “perfect storm” is unfolding this summer to create deadly flooding in areas like the Northeast, while regions around the world like the US Southwest are being scorched by record heat. Steady warming and atmospheric changes are “supercharging” regular weather events, making them longer and more intense, Michael E. Mann, a climate researcher and distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN.
Other areas heavily affected by the recent rainfall are entering recovery mode.
In New York, where states of emergency were declared in several counties as water flooded streets, a 35-year-old woman died after she was swept away by floodwaters while trying to evacuate her Orange County home on Sunday. The flooding caused “easily tens of millions of dollars in damage,” County Executive Steve Neuhaus said Monday.
Similar scenes were seen in Oklahoma over the weekend as heavy rain fell in the region. Strong currents swept away Two children who were fishing Monday night in Lake Overholser in Oklahoma City. Authorities recovered the bodies of the 10- and 11-year-old children.
Weather conditions have improved and only scattered showers are expected in the Northeast Wednesday afternoon, especially in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York.