(NECN: Jack Thurston, Underhill, Vt.) - "It's surreal," sighed Andrew Fletcher of Underhill, Vt., as he walked across his ruined front yard Friday morning. "I never anticipated it on this scale."
Fletcher's world was turned upside down by flash flooding Thursday night. He lives alongside what's normally a gently-trickling stream at the intersection of Rt. 15 and Cilley Hill Road. But after three or four inches of rain whipped his small town, runoff from a nearby hill turned that stream into a raging river. "As soon as we saw it starting to cut away the road, we knew it was time to get out of here," Fletcher remembered.
Fletcher's garage was wiped out. The yard became an unrecognizable gravel pit. His basement was still full of water Friday morning, and the first floor was caked in mud. "There could be sewage in here," Fletcher said.
The location was one of several dozen in the northern part of the Green Mountain State seriously impacted by flash flooding. A large chunk of Weed Road in Essex fell away. Across town, farmland along Rt. 128 became a new lake.
"There used to be a road here," utility worker Brian Trottier said, as he tried finding a detour. "I'll have to go pretty far out of my way to get to pretty much every location I'm going to."
The mess also closed at least eleven Chittenden County schools for the day, and sent town and state workers scrambling to re-open blocked areas and tally damage estimates. A $1-million threshold qualifies communities for help from FEMA, as Vermont has learned through a series of flooding events over the past few years.
"We can push automatic dial and get the [FEMA] folks on the phone, because we've done it so many times now," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.
The Vt. Agency of Transportation is currently looking statewide at whether it can install new, wider culverts to bear bigger torrents of water. Price and logistics are complicated, admitted Vt. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles. "All these culverts are built for a certain normal, and the question is, 'Is this a new normal?'" he said.
But any culvert improvements would come too late for Andrew Fletcher and his home. Fletcher said he and his wife are expecting a child in November.
"I've got to find a home for my wife and I to live in before our baby's born," Fletcher said. "And that's going to be tricky."
Fletcher told New England Cable News he will not return to the home that was damaged. The property he owns was seriously damaged in spring flooding in 2011, and he said he will just not expose his growing family to more risk by continuing to live there.