A storm that wreaked havoc locally prompted state officials to seek federal dollars to aid communities hit worst.
“This storm was significant for southern Vermont,” Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann said in a statement. “Infrastructure damage of that magnitude will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore infrastructure. Without federal assistance the taxpayers in those communities will experience a serious hardship.”
Bornemann is requesting assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Bennington and Windham counties to determine if the state qualifies for a federal major disaster declaration following flooding on July 29 and 30.
Officials initially identified more than $1 million in damages to public infrastructure around Vermont, according to the Vermont Department of Public Safety. Assessments are still underway.
To qualify for the declaration requested, Vermont needs to show at least $1 million in costs related to response and recovery of public infrastructure, and individual counties also must show those expenses adding up to $3.89 per capita.
Before the governor can request a disaster declaration, FEMA has to verify the damage. Eligible reimbursement costs include repair work on public roads and buildings, tree and debris removal from public rights of way, time spent by municipal employees working on recovery, contractor help, equipment rentals and other costs associated with the storm.
“We are most certainly going to be seeking whatever kind of assistance we can get from FEMA just for the town,” Jamaica Select Board Chairman Greg Meulemans said. “And then on top of that, we’ll hopefully be able to leverage it a little bit more on the regional level.”
The town is coordinating with Windham Regional Commission, which was working with municipalities Friday to list their damage with state planners.
Jamaica was hit hard with washed out roads and damaged culverts. Some residents were stranded for a day or two until road crews could start “pushing the streambeds back in and leveling off the road,” Meulemans said.
“Everything is pieced together to be able to get people out,” he said. “Obviously not everything is back to normal. It’s just been patched together so people could get to and from. It will be a long process to get it totally back.”
Washouts were everywhere, said John and Myles Grant of Westminster West. They compared the impact of the storm to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Ed Druke, owner of WW Building Supply, described much of the Newfane business being inundated with water.
“It was just a bad situation for everyone,” he said.
The newer building closer to the town offices only had water in the entrance but the rest of the property was washed out, Druke said.
Scott Morgan shoveled mud off his property in Bellows Falls and recalled a similar storm about six years ago.
“I didn’t expect this to happen again,” he said.
Documenting the aftermath with a camera, Carter Ford of Saxtons River said the storm felt like a monsoon.
“I’ve seen the river rise but never to this level,” she said, having lived in town for about two years now.
Nicole LoBiondo, meteorologist at AccuWeather, said the Brattleboro area received about 12.7 inches of rain in July, which is about three times the rainfall the area typically gets in July.
Forecasted in some local spots for Sunday night was another 1 to 1.5 inches of rain.
“It wouldn’t make things a ton worse,” LoBiondo said. “Another inch on saturated ground is not the best.”
That much rainfall could increase the likelihood of localized flash flooding in low-lying areas, LoBiondo said.