BRATTLEBORO -- Though Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm as the brunt of its force began slamming into southern Vermont Sunday morning, officials and residents struggled to deal with high winds and flood threats.
Southern Vermont is experiencing extremely heavy rain and that rain is moving north so more flood issues are expected throughout the state. Winds are also expected to take down trees and power lines with 55 mph gusts. By noon on Sunday, utilities were already reporting over 10,000 power outages.
Vermont Emergency Management reports a number of local roads washed out or closed because of the fear of washouts. Local officials in many towns throughout Windham County and the surrounding areas are reporting high water and those close to rivers and streams are being encouraged to monitor water levels closely. "If you see water rising it is best to evacuate early before it is ordered," VEM stated in a release.
Vermont State Police had already received several reports of motorists being stranded by floodwaters in the southeastern part of the state by early afternoon. The VSP urged motorists to stay off the roads unless evacuating or experiencing a medical emergency - particularly in the towns of Wilmington and Marlboro. Police and other rescue services warned they were stretched thin and help may not be available right away. "The best thing to do is seek higher ground and stay there."
In Marlboro late Sunday morning, officials were urging all residents of Auger Hole Road to evacuate as the water was rising quickly in that area. Part of the road and bridges were washed out and the preferred route was toward Newfane.
In Dover, there were reports of five roads washed out and the town opened two shelters: one at the Summit Hotel at Mt. Snow and one at the Dover Elementary School.
VEM is reporting these other known road closures as of 1:30 p.m.:
-- In Brattleboro, Westgate Drive Bridge has damage;
-- In Guilford, multiple roads;
-- In Marlboro, Augur Hill Road, Adams Cross Road, Higly Hill Road, Grant Road, Butterfield Road
-- In Newfane, Baker Brook Road,Dover Road;
-- In Readsboro, Route 8, Route 100;
-- In Townshend, Route 35/Athens Road;
-- In Wilmington, Route 100, Route 9;
-- In Winhall, Mountain Road, Lower Taylor Hill Road;
-- In Guilford, Guilford Center Road, Campbell Road, Slate Rock Road;
-- In Newfane, Beattle Stone Bridge Road, Route 30;
-- In Rockingham, Westminster Road.
VEM warns there are likely more, and that motorists please respect all detours.
Swiftwater rescue teams are being staged to cover all areas of Vermont and one has been dispatched to Windham County.
The first of 8 American Red Cross shelters in Vermont opened Saturday evening in Brattleboro, sheltering 17 residents from a local senior housing complex, the Red Cross reports. An additional 20 residents from another Brattleboro Housing Authority location were expected to arrive at the Brattleboro shelter Sunday morning. The rest of the Red Cross shelters opened Sunday at 9 a.m.
Residents with pets are being told that there are limited arrangement for pets at each shelter (with the exception of Springfield), however openings for pets may be limited where they are accepted
In addition to the Red Cross, the following other shelters are currently in operation:
-- In Dover at Mt.
-- In Jamaica at Masonic Hall on Route 30;
-- In Wardsboro at Town Hall.
Some other communities may also open their own shelter; call your town or city office to see if there is one nearer to your home.
At approximately 5 p.m., Brattleboro residents received an automated phone call from Town Manager Barbara Sonntag advising them of the latest Hurricane Irene forecast of winds of 35-50 mph and 7 to 10 inches of rain. An emergency shelter would open beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at Brattleboro Union High School and people who live in "flood-prone areas" were advised to evacuate.
Many area events were canceled on Sunday, including church services and farmers' markets.
School at Twin Valley middle and high schools, Whitingham and Halifax Elementary and Deerfield Valley Elementary has been canceled Monday.
For storm updates, information on road closures and shelter information, the public is encouraged to call 2-1-1.
Readers are encouraged to follow the Reformer's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BrattleboroReformer) for up-to-date emergency information, or to share information with other followers.
Read full coverage in Monday's Reformer.