Weather Swing Prompts Flooding Fears in Vt. Towns

This week's spring-like temperatures and rain have renewed fears of flooding in Vermont.

Two potential trouble spots are Swanton, in Franklin County, and Johnson, in Lamoille County. In both places, community leaders are taking serious precautions and urging people to do the same if they live near rivers there.

"I am leaving," said Chuck Safford of Swanton, as he packed up and prepared to evacuate his home for a hotel Tuesday. "There's a lot of anxiety."

Safford lives near the Missisquoi River. Just last month, dozens of people in the area, including Safford, suffered severe property damage from flooding caused by ice jams, rapid snow melt and rain.

Tuesday and Wednesday's rainfall and warming temperatures are again melting snow, leaving the river rising with ice still damming its flow in spots.

Swanton Emergency Management officials said Tuesday they expect the Missisquoi to reach flood stage early Wednesday morning, so they've strongly advised folks like Safford to evacuate.

"We can do nothing but hope for the best for our neighbors," Safford told necn.

In Johnson, volunteers filled sandbags to help protect property if the Lamoille River jumps its banks.

"Somebody characterized it as watching a train wreck in slow motion," said Eric Osgood, Johnson's emergency management director.

Osgood said the town's emergency fund brought in an excavator with a 72-foot reach to smash up ice on the Lamoille and pluck out thick chunks, some of which are the size of dining room tabletops.

Osgood said the work aims to open a channel to keep water moving, instead of just going up.

"This will not get us out of the woods," Osgood said. "We're still going to be in the woods until this ice jam breaks up and starts moving."

In both Johnson and Swanton, the Red Cross has opened evacuation centers.

According to the Red Cross, the locations for those evacuation centers are at Missisquoi Valley Union High School in Swanton and at Johnson State College in Johnson.

Both communities urged residents to sign up for the VTAlert service, which provides customizable safety messages in case emergencies are happening in your area. More information on that service is available here.

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