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Central Vermont hammered with rain, prompting evacuations, rescues and road closures


Central Vermont hammered with rain, prompting evacuations, rescues and road closures

A man in a "Berlin Fire Dept." shirt walks over a bridge toward vehicles with colorful lights during dusk.
Police and fire department crews check out a bridge on the Stevens Branch in Berlin to make sure no debris was getting stuck as rainfall pummeled the central part of the state on Wednesday, July 10. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Updated at 11:14

Between 3 and 4 inches of rain inundated portions of central Vermont in a three-hour timespan late Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, flooding multiple municipalities in the region, including Barre City, Williamstown, Plainfield and Moretown.

The deluge was expected to flood the Winooski River from Montpelier to Waterbury overnight, according to the weather service, covering local roads and fields. 

Further east, in the Caledonia County town of Barnet, the Stevens River jumped its banks near the Barnet Village Store, likely destroying a bridge, according to New England 511. At least a dozen roads in the town washed out, according to Barnet Fire and Rescue.

A raging and misty waterfall flows with high force between rocks and trees, creating heavy spray and turbulence.
A river rages along Stowe Street in Waterbury around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10. Photo by Gordon Miller/Waterbury Roundabout

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon declared a state of emergency in his city around 9:30 p.m., after officials rescued roughly a dozen people from flooded houses and cars, he said. With water pouring into the flood-prone city, Barre closed several roads downtown and urged people to stay away, if possible. It was also preparing to issue a boil water notice, according to Barre City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro.

“The next three hours are going to be pretty critical for us. I wouldn’t say it’s a repeat of ’23,” Lauzon said, referring to last July’s devastating floods, “but it’s very serious.” 

“I hate to say it, but at this point we’re just at the mercy of Mother Nature,” he said. 

Robert Haynes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Burlington office, said that some of the central Vermont areas being pummeled with rain can handle only 1.5 inches an hour — and at times Wednesday evening were receiving twice that. After a brief respite, he said, those areas could expect another inch or two of rain around 10 or 10:30 p.m. 

In addition to Barre, Williamstown had also conducted evacuations Wednesday evening, according to Vermont Emergency Management spokesperson Mark Bosma. And Haynes said that residents of Moretown Village were being asked to evacuate. 

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At least two shelters opened for those displaced by the flooding, according to Bosma: at the Barre Auditorium and Williamstown Middle/High School. 

The weather service issued flood warnings Wednesday night for the Winooski River in Montpelier and Waterbury. 

The river was expected to crest in the capital soon after midnight at about 17 feet, just shy of major flood stage. At 17.5 feet, according to the weather service, water would cover the streets of downtown Montpelier. The river reached about 21.3 feet in last summer’s historic flooding. 

In Waterbury, the Winooski was expected to crest at 421.4 feet at around 8 a.m. Thursday, according to the weather service. That’s enough to reach properties on Randall Street, Foundry Street and some parking lots at the Waterbury State Office Complex. “Considerable field flooding” would also occur from Waterbury through Richmond, according to the weather service. The Winooski reached 426 feet during last summer’s flooding and 430 feet during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. 

The Mad River in Moretown and the Lamoille River in Johnson were also expected to rise significantly. 

K. Fiegenbaum, Habib Sabet and Sarah Mearhoff contributed reporting.

This story will be updated.

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