(NECN: Jack Thurston, Highgate, Vt.) - Northern Vermont continues struggling with its weather woes. Lake Champlain is still at historic levels, and rain pounded the region for another day. Wednesday, the fallout was a destructive mudslide. "It's devastating," sighed Jeff Towle of the Highgate, Vt. selectboard.
A hillside in Highgate was so saturated after a week's worth of rain it gave way in the early morning hours. It dumped hundreds of thousands of square feet of mud downhill, knocking out power to thousands of customers in Highgate and nearby Swanton. "
With [Lake Champlain] as high as it is, and everything's filling the rivers up-- everybody's feeling it," Towle explained.
Jeremy Letourneau's wife heard the land crumble. "She was startled," Letourneau said. "She said she heard a couple big rumbles, a couple big pows. She said it sounded almost like a shotgun. Then the power was out."
Emergency crews are grateful the rushing tons of mud stopped before annihilating a power generating plant at the base of the hill. The soil did not dump into the mighty Missisquoi River. If it had, first responders worry it could have caused a backup and more river flooding. "It could have been a lot worse," said Reg Beliveau, the village manager and emergency management chief for Swanton. "There's obviously higher powers keeping an eye on us here."
While the hillside is still unstable, no private property is in the path of destruction. Crews were able to restore power fairly quickly. Now the question is what to do with all the mud.
Local officials do not have a price tag for the cleanup yet, but it certainly won't be cheap. Highgate hopes to get help from the state and federal government. Federal disaster aid is expected for Vermont, with the cost for flood and rain cleanup now well into the millions of dollars.