VERMONT — Even before the rain ended late Sunday night, Gov. Peter Shumlin declared the flooding likely the worst since November of 1927, when torrential rains caused flooding, destruction and deaths across the state.
As Monday morning dawned, reports streaming in from all corners of the state revealed widespread washouts and flooding due to the remnants of Hurricane Irene, and Vermont Emergency Management declared 12 communities — including Granville and Hancock — completely isolated due to the storm. It quickly became clear that early reports of the storm’s severity were not exaggerated.
“Some areas got more than twice their average monthly rainfall,” said Michael Muccilli, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Burlington. “That’s like getting two months of rain in 20 hours.”
After a certain point, he said, the ground can no longer absorb the water, which instead begins pooling on top of the ground and flooding surrounding waterways.
According to Muccilli, areas that saw the most rainfall in the state were mainly located along the spine of the Green Mountains. Topping the charts was South Lincoln, where rainfall levels measured 8.15 inches. According to the National Weather Service, South Lincoln’s average rainfall for the entire month of August is 5.22 inches.
Muccilli said the Champlain Valley got significantly lower levels of rain.
Tim Parsons, landscape horticulturist at Middlebury College, reported in a blog post that the campus weather station measured 3.21 inches of rain and that wind speeds peaked at 37 miles per hour on Sunday evening. A Cornwall resident reported 4.5 inches at his rain gauge.
Despite the fact that Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm and entered the state with winds far slower than hurricane speed, the combination of heavy rains loosening the soil and gusting winds led to downed trees and power lines across the region.
And the rain that bombarded the state caused widespread problems, boosting rivers so high that they ran over roads and took out bridges, flooding downtowns, causing power outages and prompting evacuations.
While flooding conditions in the Champlain Valley had improved by Tuesday, Otter Creek continued to rise, overtaking a bridge on Leicester-Whiting Road and prompting the road’s closure that morning.
Muccilli said due both to the length of Otter Creek and to the fact that a large number of other waterways flow into it, the river was the only one in the state that was still above flood stage on Tuesday. He said the waters in Otter Creek were expected to drop below flood stage on Wednesday.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at firstname.lastname@example.org.