Vermont reservoir threatens to overflow as floods lash state capital


  • More heavy rains in Vermont raised the threat of water from a reservoir  spilling over a dam protecting the state’s capital.
  • Flood waters had already reached the windows of businesses and the tops of vehicles.
  • Vermont officials were calling the flooding the worst since Hurricane Irene reached the state as a tropical storm in 2011 and caused about $750 million in damages and seven deaths in Vermont.

Another round of heavy downpours in Vermont on Tuesday raised the threat of water from a reservoir spilling over a dam protecting the state’s capital city of Montpelier and worsening a “catastrophic” flood.

Video footage from Fox Weather showed flood waters had already reached the windows of businesses and the tops of vehicles in Montpelier’s picturesque downtown district.

There are “very few evacuation options remaining” because most roads in the area were closed, city manager William Fraser wrote on Facebook. Residents should instead go to upper floors of their homes, he said, adding that water rescue boats and other assets were in the area to assist.

Early on Tuesday morning, the Wrightsville Dam, which forms a reservoir north of Montpelier, had 1.8 metres of storage capacity remaining, the city’s manager said on social media.

Once the limit is crossed, a spillway would release water into the North Branch of the Winooski River, he warned, aggravating what the National Weather Service is describing as “catastrophic” flooding in downtown Montpelier, where the North Branch converges with a second branch of the Winooski.

Fraser said:

This has never happened since the dam was built so there is no precedent for potential damage.

“This will be particularly bad along the North Branch River corridor and into the downtown.”

No casualties have been reported in Vermont so far.

Vermont officials were calling the flooding the worst since Hurricane Irene reached the state as a tropical storm in 2011 and caused about $750 million in damages and seven deaths in Vermont.

Private forecaster AccuWeather preliminarily estimated damages and economic loss from the current floods at $3 billion to $5 billion, based on its own method of evaluation.

Concerns over the dam have worsened as more rains threatened to cause additional flooding across Vermont, the northeastern corner of New York state and parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, the National Weather Service said in its forecast.

Many parts of the region have seen as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of rain over the last several days. The torrential rains have caused raging flood waters to swell rivers and streams throughout the region, rush through small towns and force the closure of major roadways.

Several rivers in the region were expected to crest well above their flood stage on Tuesday. In central Vermont’s Johnson, the Lamoille River was at 21 feet, some 5 feet about its normal flood stage, the National Weather Service said.

The flooding has already prompted 50 swift boat rescues and killed a woman who was swept away in front of her fiancé in New York state, officials said.

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