Vt. city cleans up from damaging flash floods

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May 23, 2013, 8:12 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - The Burlington, Vt. Public Works Dept. was busy Thursday, cleaning up neighborhoods lashed by powerful rainfall and flash floods Wednesday evening. New England Cable News caught up with a crew using power sprayers and a giant vacuum to muck out the edges of streets and suck storm drains clean.

Many drains were clogged with debris, worsening the chances of additional flooding. "We're just trying to clean up some of the debris and rain water damage from the rain event," said public works employee Bill Geehan.

That event brought record one-day rainfall to Vermont's largest city. The tally of 1.43" of rain surpassed the previous record for May 22, which had stood for more than 90 years, according to National Weather Service data.

That fast and furious rainfall turned roads into canals, stranding drivers and giving some residents an opportunity to use their canoes and kayaks in the middle of streets. The flash floods also caused some localized damage to streets and private property. "The amount of water that came through was just unbelievable," said Burlington resident Andrew Lieberman.

Lieberman said the rocky driveway of the home he rents washed away in the racing water. He showed NECN his basement, which was left a muddy mess. The clothes dryer had debris stuck in its drum, and water appeared to have risen three or three and a half feet high on a pair of skis leaning against the wall. "It was a pretty ugly scene," Lieberman said.

Burlington's streets and storm drains may still be in for more stress. More rain is in the forecast, and the entire state of Vermont is under a flash flood watch until Friday morning. That means conditions may develop that cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly and culverts become overwhelmed in a short period of time, according to a press release from the Vt. Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Those emergency officials also issued these flood preparation tips:

· Never drive or walk through floodwaters. Unseen washouts or unexpectedly fast running water can carry away an automobile. Floodwaters also often contain contaminants like wastewater, fuel, or other harmful liquids and solids so stay away if you can.
· Monitor radio, television, and newspapers as well as web sites for flood warnings.
· Move any vehicles or equipment like lawn mowers or tractors to higher ground. Flooded vehicles pollute the water with fuel.
· If you do evacuate your home, turn off your circuit breaker before you leave and have your home's electrical system inspected by a professional before you return.
· For road conditions call 5-1-1 or visit www.511vt.com
· For personal assistance and resources call 2-1-1; 2-1-1 is a service of the United Way.

Lieberman noted the ground in his hard-hit neighborhood seemed saturated, so he worried about the effects of additional rainfall. "What was capable of being absorbed has already been absorbed, so there's just going to be more runoff," he predicted.

But the public works employees told NECN they hope their cleaning of city storm drains gives the predicted rainfall somewhere to go. The workers said they're well aware of Vermont's reputation for warm-weather thunderstorms, and want to stay ready. "Yeah, they happen quite often," Bill Geehan sighed.

Tags: rain, weather, vermont, flood, Jack Thurston
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