Landlocked Vermont Dealt a Deadly Blow by Hurricane Irene

The worst flooding Vermont has suffered in 83 years has claimed the lives of three residents of the Green Mountain state. The victims include a woman swept away by the raging Deerfield River in Wilmington, a man who drowned in Mendon when flood waters took him away, and another man found dead in Lake Rescue in Ludlow.

Hurricane Irene dumped some 15 inches of rain on the land-locked state this past weekend. It washed out more than 260 roads, according to Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Brian Searles, and left 35 bridges closed because of storm-related damage. It also left nearly 10 percent of the state’s 625,000 or so residents without power.

It is “one of the top weather-related disasters in Vermont’s history,” National Weather Service hydrologist Greg Hansen told USA Today. “We’ve heard reports of houses and cars washing away. We’re keeping our fingers crossed all those were empty.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency this past weekend. President Obama followed yesterday in declaring the nation’s 45th largest state a disaster area, making it eligible for federal aid.

Indeed, Central Vermont Public Service, the state’s largest power company, said that electricity won’t be restored to some communities around the state for several weeks. “In many places,” Company Vice President Joe Kraus told USA Today, “we can’t even get to the damage” because of mud and debris.

Meanwhile, Irene has caused a water crisis for the Vermont town of Bennington, where the mainline from a water filtration plan snapped under a collapsed bridge. The local water resources superintendent says the town has a day-and-a-half to two days to get the mainline fixed before it runs out of potable water.

Vermont residents were caught off guard by Irene’s ferocity, which came ashore in North Carolina as a hurricane on Saturday and had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it passed through New York City on Sunday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Anthony Loconto explained to the Burlington Free Press that rain falls hardest to the west of all tropical storms heading northward through New England.

Because wind blows counterclockwise around those northward heading storms, the wind comes out of the east toward Vermont. That’s why the inland state was slammed harder by Irene than the neighboring coastal states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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