Hurricane Irene dumped fifteen inches of rain on the state of Vermont over the weekend, drowning the state in mud and debris. Three people lost their lives as a result of the storm and one person remains listed as missing. Over 200 roads in the state washed away and three historic covered bridges were destroyed. Nearly 10% of the population lost power and many affected may not have power again for several weeks, so says Central Vermont Public Service.
Nearly every major river in the state crested Monday. The waters are starting to recede however the devastation was already very widespread. The last time Vermont saw flooding on this scale was back in the fall of 1927 which also was the result of a tropical storm that moved into the state. This time around the rainfall fell on already-saturated grounds from heavy springtime rains. Vermont’s mountainous geography played a part in the flooding as torrents of water rushed down mountain streams.
Although the damage occurred statewide, it was mainly concentrated in the southern portion of Vermont. There are dozens of small towns and villages that rescue teams simply cannot get to because of washed out roads and downed trees and power poles. Very few people in Vermont purchase flood insurance, and that is a huge concern now as a countless number of homes and businesses throughout the state have flooded basements. FEMA has authorized funds for the state of Vermont but thus far those affected do not know how to apply for help.
Vermont’s governor Peter Shumlin toured the affected areas of his state by helicopter Monday and called the devastation “heartbreaking”. The chopper landed in Bennington as the town was particularly hard-hit. Shumlin stated that federal help is on the way as he has been in direct contact with President Obama who pledged that Washington will do what is needed to assist. Many areas of the state remained under flood watches and warnings early Tuesday with the National Weather Service saying that record flooding was still occurring in some areas of the state. Vermont did not order or even suggest evacuations mainly due to the fact that many of the communities are located in low-lying areas. There are very few large areas of dry land, making large-scale evacuations impractical.
Overall, about 5 ½ million homes and business were still without power from North Carolina all the way up to Maine. THe devastation in New Jersey, has caused substantial basement flooding issues throughout Newark as flood waters continue to rise. Hurricane Irene is thought to have caused significant property losses, although exact figures are not know due to uncertainty about wind damages. The expensive cleanup in Vermont and other affected states on the East Coast will further strain budgets of both local and state governments where the economies have not yet fully recovered for the recession.