DEREK CARSON, Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The state of Vermont launched on Monday a new website designed to help town officials and homeowners be more prepared in the event of a flood disaster.

Floodready.vermont.gov brings together data and tools related to every possible aspect of flood preparedness, including how to identify flood hazards, how to find funding to reduce risk to existing buildings, suggestions for updating community plans, and simply information on what other communities in the state are doing.

The site also explains how towns can qualify for Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund money after a flood. According to the site, communities who have taken four mitigation actions will qualify for increased assistance in any flood after Oct. 23 of this year. Flood Ready Vermont allows users to browse their databases and see what communities have done to qualify and what their next steps may be.

On one page, the site asks viewers, "Why act now?" State assistance increases when you act, it reads, weather is intensifying, planning ahead avoids crisis and cost, mitigation funds come to those who plan, and that the best solutions may not be available in the future. There are links for more information on each bullet point. "Tropical Storm Irene lives vividly in our memories," reads the paragraph that follows, "We all know people whose lives were turned upside down.


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Homes washed away. Bridges and roads were decimated. The costs for a small state were immense -- about $65 million in insurance claims, $153 million in state and local costs, and a staggering $603 million in federal outlays -- all from one storm. The costs were unprecedented in this small state, but the flooding was anything but. Since 2000, Vermont has had more than one federally-declared disaster per year."

The site offers numerous tools for fostering a deeper understanding of flood preparedness, but also takes the time to explain to the user how to best utilize them. For example, the site includes a database of maps, including maps of watershed boundaries and topography, lakes and rivers, forested areas and wetlands, river corridors and floodplains, special flood hazard areas, roads, bridges, and culverts, critical facilities, dams, hazardous materials sites, and geomorphic data. Included with these are definitions, and important questions that town officials should be asking about their communities.

Finally, the website includes a "Making it Happen" section that shares the stories of how other Vermont communities are increasing their flood preparedness. For Bennington County, at this early stage, the only towns highlighted are Sunderland and Arlington. There is also a link for towns to submit their stories, and an email listserve for town planners and other concerned officials to ask and receive answers to flood-related questions.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB