Vermont seeks US damage assessment after flash floods
UNDERHILL -- Flash flooding from record-tying rainfall in parts of northern Vermont washed out roads, damaged bridges and clogged culverts after a string of overnight thunderstorms across the region that left some residents Friday slogging through mud and debris.
Gov. Peter Shumlin described the flooding as "devastating."
"Jericho and Underhill have 30 different closures right now," Shumlin said. "We got over four inches of rain in a short period of time. We’re working together ... to try and see if whether the towns will qualify for federal funding."
Late Friday afternoon, the state formally asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send a preliminary damage assessment team to determine if parts of the state might qualify for federal disaster aid. If approved, a FEMA team could be in Vermont next week.
At least one homeowner said his house appeared damaged beyond repair.
Andrew Fletcher, who lives with his pregnant wife, said the water hit about dark Thursday. His garage was swept into a culvert on Route 15 in Jericho and destroyed then water poured into his home. The 35-year-old Fletcher said he had just finished fixing the home after spring floods damaged it two years ago.
"The river was coming down pretty good. It breached the road and I heard the god-awful sound of the rubble being flushed down the river," Fletcher said Friday morning while he took a break from retrieving some family items that had washed out of the garage and downstream.
"Last weekend I was at the point where I was starting to feel like ‘wow, we’ve achieved the repairs. We are in a position to start focusing on our life in this house.’ And then a weekend later, it’s all gone," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said he’d asked state officials about the culvert in front of his home, which he felt was too small.
Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said the intersection of Cilley Hill Road and Route 15 was prone to flooding, and the size and engineering of culverts has been an issue the state has been grappling with since Tropical Storm Irene inundated much of Vermont in 2011.
"We are experiencing rainfall that is higher than normal," Searles said. "So our system to deal with stormwater is measured against norms, which may in fact not be in play anymore."
The series of heavy thunderstorms hit eastern Chittenden County on Thursday evening, following a rainy week in which more than 6 inches of rain fell on parts of the county. A flood warning was issued for parts of Chittenden, Franklin, Caledonia and Lamoille counties, and at least 11 schools were closed in Chittenden County.
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