With rain in the forecast and melting snow gushing from the mountains, the governor of Vermont warned people in flood-prone areas and near rivers and streams to be on guard for more possible flash flooding this weekend—and if necessary, to be ready to move to higher ground.
That alert came while Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, was touring Pittsfield and Bethel, two communities already ravaged by floods earlier this week.
“We want to warn people,” Gov. Scott said. “We want people to be aware of what could happen, so they are prepared themselves, or so they can make other arrangements for this weekend so they’re not caught in their homes. The last thing we want to happen is for someone to stick it out too long.”
The worries come from the combo of additional rain in the forecast and continued snowmelt.
Gov. Scott said if rapid river rises happen again later this week, already-damaged areas in low-lying spots could be hit a second time.
Scott urged Vermonters to stay glued to forecasts as well as to alerts from public safety officials.
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On the tour of hard-hit Pittsfield and Bethel, Scott was joined by Erica Bornemann, the director of Vermont Emergency Management.
The communities were hammered by a one-two punch of heavy rain and snowmelt Sunday night into Monday, spawning flash flooding that chewed away large portions of roadways and washed out several bridges.
“It looked like the river had just gone around the house, which it had,” recalled Wilbur Abrams, 15, of Pittsfield, who took video of the yard of his family’s house full of running water.
The communities saw worse damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
“A lot of people are having flashbacks to Irene with this,” said Charlie Piso, the chair of the Pittsfield Select Board.
Piso said the latest storm repair costs from Monday’s flooding should easily quintuple the community’s $230,000 annual highway budget. That means affording repairs would be a huge cost crisis for the town, Piso said, because it is home to fewer than 600 people.
Piso hopes federal aid money will support the town’s rebuilding.
“Water does amazing things, and water is a frightening thing, as well,” Piso observed.
Bornemann and her office just asked FEMA to come to Vermont to conduct a preliminary damage assessment, which is a key step toward a federal major disaster declaration—and the relief funds that come with one.
“When you look at a million dollars in the scope of a town with 600 people, that is just an enormous impact,” Bornemann said of Pittsfield’s experience, adding that Vermont Emergency Management will support communities throughout the process of securing possible federal disaster aid.
The governor said state public safety officials will be monitoring the storm threat in the coming days, so town counterparts can reach out to people in low-lying or flood-prone areas, should the risk worsen.