Flooding closes Vt. roads, state offices as storm slams East coast

Saturday October 2, 2010

WARREN -- Rivers and streams overflowed their banks across Vermont on Friday after a drenching storm dumped up to 5 1/2 inches of rain on parts of the state, flooding fields, closing roads and prompting the American Red Cross to open shelters in Rutland and Lyndonville.

Two homes were evacuated in Bristol after being threatened by the rising floodwaters; sandbags were being used in Cambridge to protect homes; and swift-water rescue teams were placed on standby in Johnson and Lyndonville.

In Lyndonville, the Colchester swift-water rescue team responded to a report of someone stuck in a car but the by the time they got there, the person had gotten out of the vehicle. They also were sent to look for a missing kayaker in East Burke, but the kayaker was found by state police uninjured, said Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma.

"We haven't had any injuries that we know of, major property damage and public infrastructure damage has not been as great as it could have been," Bosma said. "The response is going well. We've had the right people in the right places."

Routes 116 in Bristol and 100 in Rochester were closed or restricted, as were routes 125 in Ripton, 128 in Westford and 5 in Lyndonville, Barton and Orleans.

In Brattleboro, heavy rains and winds caused minor damage around town. A downed telephone pole took out power along a section of Putney Road Friday morning, leaving many businesses, included the Brattleboro Reformer offices, without phones or power for much of the morning. Workers from Fairpoint and CVPS were able to replace the pole by early afternoon.

Officials of the annual Connecticut River Watershed Council are advising thousands of local volunteers to postpone their annual Cleanup Day scheduled for today, or move their work areas completely away from watercourses. The new date for this year's cleanup is Saturday, Oct. 16. The annual one-day cleanup that extends the length of the Connecticut River's 410 miles through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Organizers expect this year's turnout to be over 2,500.

"With a half a foot of rain overnight in some parts of four-state basin, our concern is for the safety of hundreds of Source to Sea volunteers we have ready to head out toward area river and stream banks," stated Chelsea Gwyther, the Connecticut River Watershed Council's Executive Director, in a press release.

The National Weather Service on Friday extended a flood watch for Vermont to late Friday. Forecasters said an additional inch of rain could fall before the storm moves out of the area on Saturday.

Unofficial measurements found that by midmorning Friday 5 1/2 inches of rain had fallen in Pittsford, 5 inches in Castleton, 4.4 inches in Montpelier and 4.3 in St. Johnsbury, the weather service said.

In Montpelier, nonessential state workers were sent home Friday after the Winooski River threatened state parking lots.

No one had taken advantage of the Rutland Red Cross shelter, but the facility would be open through the night if anyone needed it.

The 250 sandbags used to protect homes in Cambridge were filled last weekend by Vermont National Guard soldiers as part of an exercise.

In New Hampshire, about 8,000 customers were left without power at the peak of Friday's storm, forcing road closures in some areas.

At the high end, over 4 inches of rain had fallen, mostly in the northern part of the state, said Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"It's scattered problems," he said of the storm. "The wind has mostly died down."

Van Dongen said some moderate flooding was expected at the Pemigewasset River at Plymouth and the Baker River at Rumney. Minor flooding was expected on the Ammonoosuc, Connecticut River at Dalton, and the Pemigewasset at Woodstock.

Over 20 roads were closed throughout the state because of flooding, downed trees and power lines. Most were in the northern part of the state.

Elsewhere in the Northeast

The rain had largely subsided in hard-hit Pennsylvania, New York and New England by Friday evening. But flood warnings and watches remained in effect in areas that were drenched with more precipitation than they usually get in months -- up to 6 inches in mere hours in some places.

The storm was blamed for five deaths in North Carolina on Thursday and a sixth in Pennsylvania on Friday -- a woman who apparently drove her car into a rain-swollen creek before daybreak.

A great swath of the Northeast was soaked by the morning commute, including New York City and Philadelphia. Flights coming into LaGuardia Airport in New York City were delayed three hours and traffic into Manhattan was delayed up to an hour.

Firefighters in the Philadelphia area used a ladder truck to pull residents through the upper-floor windows of a building. Cars were submerged up to their windows, and one man found another vehicle floating atop his car.

Rainfall in the Philadelphia area topped 10 inches. Parts of upstate New York had unofficial totals of more than 6 inches of rain and New York City's Central Park recorded 3.08 inches.

More than 50,000 power outages were reported in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the New York City suburbs during the brunt of the storm Friday morning, but many customers had power restored by the afternoon as the deluge reduced to a drizzle.

The flooding might have been worse if not for a dry spell across much of the Northeast, said New Jersey State climatologist Dave Robinson.

"The saving grace was that we were dry and the rivers were low before this," he said.

Forecasts called for cooler, drier air in many areas once the storm passed.

Reformer staff, as well at Associated Press reporters Kathy McCormack, Frank Eltman and Jim Fitzgerald contributed to this report.


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