Ice Jam Flooding Wreaks Havoc in Vermont

Several dozen homeowners are bracing for losses after a major river flooded in northwestern Vermont.

"We came to get what's meant the most to her," said Shannon Davenport of St. Albans, who was helping her daughter collect belongings from her flooded home in Swanton.

Davenport trekked down a closed road and over an ice-covered yard to get to where her daughter lives, confronting thick ice from floodwaters in the garage.

"Everyone's safe and they're in good hands," Davenport said of her daughter and grandchild. "She plans on going back to work tomorrow and picking up the pieces."

The dangerous combo of last week's rapid snow melt, followed by heavy rain and a six-mile ice jam on the Missisquoi River, sent water gushing onto a stretch of Route 78 near the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.

Now that temperatures plunged back down into the deep freeze, those floodwaters have become ice. Cars are encased. A boat and its trailer were pushed toward the road. And the frozen high-water mark was still visible on trees.

Public safety officials evacuated two dozen homes over the weekend, according to Swanton Village Manager Reg Beliveau. That included 35 people and six dogs. Foundry Street and North and South River Lane were placed on voluntary evacuations.

Additional homes on Monument Road in nearby Highgate were also evacuated, according to Swanton officials.

"It put some folks in serious jeopardy here," said Dave Blackmore, the regional administrator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, who was overseeing flooding cleanup of Route 78 and assessing the road condition Monday.

Village of Swanton officials asked people who were displaced from their homes to not return without checking with village leaders, so they can receive important safety information.

"I've never seen it like this," said Mike Rich, who lives on Route 78 in Swanton, and whose property and vehicles were affected by floodwaters.

Rich was strongly urged to leave his home with his neighbors, but took a risk—choosing to stay.

"I wanted to get as much out of my basement as possible — I wanted to save what I could," Rich told necn.

Monday, he watched Vermont's Transportation Agency pushing chunks of solid ice off Route 78, aiming to make it safe to drive on before it could be reopened to traffic.

"Throughout the last 24 to 48 hours, our team of VTrans folks have been out there battling the elements," Blackmore said. "It's getting better."

The good news from regional officials is the water is receding. However, with ice still jamming the Missisquoi, changing weather conditions mean the risk for flooding could return.

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