fb-pixelTorrents of rain raise river levels, fears across Vermont and other locations in New England - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Torrents of rain raise river levels, fears across Vermont and other locations in New England

Flash flood warnings continue in Vermont.
Governor Philip B. Scott on Sunday declared a state of emergency for Vermont amid punishing rains that have caused flooding across much of the state.

WATERBURY, Vt. — As pummeling rains fell Monday afternoon for the second straight day, Kim Crowell stood in the garage of her home, watching the Winooski River rise inch by inch. The river had already overflowed its banks and advanced across some 300 yards of grassy field. Now it lapped at the road where her house stood and looked about to come across.

Two friends stood with her, waiting to whisk her to higher ground. But Crowell didn’t want to go.

“I got eight feet of water in here 12 years ago,” she said, pointing to the water line on the garage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. “I can’t do this again.”

Advertisement



All over New England and the Northeast, a slow-moving storm system dumped torrents of rain, bringing floods that closed streets, took out bridges, and burst at least one dam. In New York’s Hudson Valley, a woman was killed. Flood watches were in effect in parts of five states, including Central Massachusetts on Monday. And rivers could crest as late as Tuesday evening.

But nowhere appeared as hard hit as Vermont.

Kim Crowell pointed to where the water crested inside her garage in Waterbury, Vt., during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Some places expected up to seven inches of precipitation since rain began Sunday. Governor Phil Scott declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon and warned that the worst was likely yet to come. He said flooding might ultimately be worse than it was 12 years ago.

Residents and local agencies shared astonishing visuals of the waters inundating roads and fields. As of Monday afternoon, more than 50 people had been rescued by 14 swift water teams throughout the state, according to Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management. That number, like the state’s rivers, is expected to rise.

Additional rescue teams from Massachusetts and North Carolina were expected to begin helping Vermont officials.

In Montpelier, the state capital, Fire Chief Robert Gowans urged residents in low-lying areas to get out before the roads became too flooded.

Advertisement



Some roads were already closed, and officials alerted people to the likelihood of widespread damage, including water runoff, flooding, and erosion. Officials deployed emergency crews around the state.

The deluge rendered many roads impassable. Vermont State Police called the flooding “life-threatening” and asked people to stay indoors.

In a video posted by the department, torrents of floodwater surged over a dam on the Ottauquechee River, sending mist into the air.

At the covered bridge in Quechee, tree trunks, bales of hay, and white Adirondack lawn chairs bobbed down the Ottauquechee and over the falls into a torrent of rushing water.

Heavy rain sent mud and debris down the Ottauquechee River. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

On Interstate 89 in Montpelier, traffic backed up for miles as rainwater flooded a bridge over the Winooski River. Areas from Mount Holly, down through Ludlow, Weston, and Londonderry were particularly hard hit. Bosma said that was where most of the boat rescues took place.

Andrew Molen, who owns a restaurant and golf course in Ludlow, said at least two of his five restaurants were flooded. Molen said bridges in Ludlow had collapsed had been damaged, making the town “near impossible to get in or out.”

Penny Chapman Longley, who lives in Mount Holly, posted several videos, including one that showed a pickup truck submerged in murky water and floods rushing like a river into a home.

Floodwaters overtook Farr’s Field in Waterbury. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff


Some said they were flooded in at work or home. Others were awaiting evacuation.

Advertisement



Shauntay Morsey, who lives in Londonderry, posted a video of what “was once 2 *very* large fields in our backyard,” but now looked more like a pond.

Hay bales were being washed out as the water levels rose, she wrote.

In Massachusetts, the National Weather Service warned Monday, torrential rains could bring dangerously rising rivers in western and northern parts of the state.

The weather service issued a warning saying moderate flooding was expected on the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts, at locations including Northampton, the Holyoke Dam, Holyoke, and Springfield, and in Connecticut.

The forecasters also warned of flooding in portions of Montague and Greenfield downstream through Sunderland and Whately. “Some residential areas may become inundated and localized road closures may be needed,” the forecasters said. The flooding there was expected to crest Tuesday evening.

The river was expected to rise to levels it hasn’t reached in decades, forecasters said.

The forecasters said they were warning about flooding on the Connecticut River from Springfield northward “based on the tremendous rains across VT and NH that will be sending quite a bit of water downstream the next couple of days.”

Forecasters also warned of minor flooding on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts.

The heavy rains across the region also caused urban flooding by late morning in areas around Fall River and Providence, the forecasters said.

The weather service fielded reports of flooded roads, cars stuck in the water, and flooded homes in Western, Central, and Southeastern Massachusetts and in Rhode Island.

Advertisement



By midafternoon, National Weather Service radar showed yet another line of storms moving from Western Massachusetts into Central Massachusetts, continuing to raise the possibility of more flooding and severe wind gusts in those areas, said Kyle Pederson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

But he said that the Boston area could escape the brunt of the storms. “They probably won’t make it all the way here,” he said.

Back in Waterbury, Kim Crowell and her friends watched as the Winooski River continued to rise across Route 2 by her house.

Clement Despault embraced his friend Kim Crowell inside her garage as the water rose around her home. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Across the street, Farr’s Field, home to a flea market that is a local staple, looked like a lake. Crowell’s boyfriend, John Farr, was across the way in the field, busy locking down things best he could.

Crowell hasn’t even finished repairing everything in her house that was wrecked by Irene, and now an unnamed storm stood poised to destroy her home again.

A friend, Clement Despault, who lives nearby on higher ground, said he’ll let her and other neighbors park their cars and whatever else they need on his property. He put on a brave face for Crowell, trying to keep her spirits up.

“We survived the last one,” he said. “We’ll survive this, too, come hell or high water.”

Martin Finucane, Carlos R. Muñoz, and Shannon Larson of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Vivi Smilgius contributed to this report.





Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.