(NECN: Jack Thurston, Granville, Vt.) - "Thanks for your hard work on the Fourth of July," Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., told workers from the Vt. Agency of Transportation Thursday.
Shumlin was touring flood damage on Route 100, near the Granville/Warren town line. A team of transportation workers had to spend the holiday there, because the normally busy north-south state highway was closed in the stretch after wicked weather Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Heavy rain hammered the area. With the ground already saturated from other storms, water raced across the land and tore apart the road.
"We can think of more fun ways to celebrate America's birthday without being out here rebuilding flooded roads and bridges," Gov. Shumlin said. "But, you know, nature doesn't seem to know any holidays. And we're going to keep staying on top of it, rebuilding, and trying to keep our roads and bridges open."
At the closed portion of Route 100 Shumlin toured, half the road is completely gone. The same stretch washed out in 2011, during Tropical Storm Irene.
"We had a 100-year storm event a couple of years ago, and we've now had, I think, five 50-year storm events in the last three years," said Brian Searles, the secretary of the Vt. Transportation Agency.
Searles and Shumlin both said they expect Vermont to qualify for federal disaster aid to fund the repairs to Route 100, as well as nearby Route 12A. A section of that road was closed due to a reported bridge washout in Roxbury. The repairs could mean one-lane travel and delays or temporary closures on impacted roads.
Searles told New England Cable News the state is now in the process of figuring out how to build culverts, bridges, and roads so they can better withstand more fierce onslaughts from water. Searles said he believes climate change will mean more heavy downpours will keep coming.
"We are just handling more runoff than we have ever have before," Searles said.
This week has been particularly challenging because, at times, the weather system has dumped several inches of rain an hour on certain, localized pockets in Vermont. Windsor was dealt a damaging blow Tuesday. Huntington saw washouts and other losses Wednesday.
In those towns and others, repairs are ongoing and could take weeks.
"We'll do our best to get rid of this rain," Shumlin joked, continuing his tour of the damage.
In Richmond, Vt., road damage and relentless rain forced the postponement of the town’s Fourth of July festivities. The parade, picnic and fireworks were canceled as the town and neighboring Huntington make repairs.
“It’s more than just the roads. It’s because of the mud in the fields,” said Chief Tom Levesque of the Richmond Fire Dept. “We wouldn't be able to get things set up, and we were a little worried last night that the water was going to go over the bridge and washed out everything we had there.”
Levesque said he could not remember the holiday celebrations being postponed in his 45 years of involvement with the Independence Day party. Richmond’s website said the event will be held at a later date, but as of Thursday evening, no new date had been set.
Throughout Chittenden County, including Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, water filled roads and made some impassable for a period of time late Thursday afternoon. The Vermont State Police warned of more than a dozen temporary road closures or washouts throughout the county.
They were urging people not to drive across water-covered roads, out of fear the surface underneath the water may be dangerously unstable, or gone. It appeared a city fire truck became stranded in flood waters on Lakeside Ave. in Burlington.
Back on Rt. 100, Gov. Shumlin asked for Vermonters' patience with delays during flash flooding and road repairs. He and the rest of his storm-beaten state are trying to stay optimistic, hoping that summer will soon bring the kind of calm and beauty Vermont is eager for.