Vermont flooding echoes 2011 storm Irene, prompting evacuations

  • Bob Barrett walks back to his house after checking out the flood damage on South Road where it abuts his property in Canaan, N.H., on Monday, July 10, 2023. Barrett has lived on the road for six years and said this is the worst he’s ever seen it. “This is mind-blowing, it really is,” he said of how quickly the road washed out. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Workers labor on the job in Hartford Village, Vt., on Monday, July 10, 2023. A temporary bridge under construction was submerged by the White River due to heavy rainfall throughout the day. The temporary bridge is intended to be used by crews to build a new bridge across the river. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Diane Rice and her son, Logan, of Killington, Vt., check the news on their phones with their two dogs outside the Bridgewater Grange on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Bridgewater, Vt. The grange was set up as a relief center for people evacuated due to flooding. The family left their home at about 9 a.m. with 3 to 4 inches of water on the first floor. Rices' husband is a travel nurse working in Rutland, they have been in Killington since June. Rice said they left the house quickly and took just a few things. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

  • Donna Waters, right, makes tuna macaroni salad with Alice Paglia at the Bridgewater Grange on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Bridgewater, Vt. Both women live in the town and were making food for people who were evacuated due to flooding in the area. The Grange served as a distribution center when Tropical Storm Irene hit the area in 2011. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Canaan Fire Department firefighter Alton Hennessy, left, and Fire Chief John Hennessy, right, assist Canaan Highway Department Road Agent Bob Cushman, second from left, Equipment Operator John Hurley, center, and Ryan Roberge as they repair a culvert in an attempt to stop water from flowing over the road and causing further damage on South Road in Canaan, N.H., on Monday, July 10, 2023. South Road is closed due to flood damage between Gristmill Hill Road and Potato Road. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Alex Driehaus

  • Kellan Johannensen, of Taftsville, Vt., looks at photos with her boyfriend, Peter Grimes, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y, in front of the Taftsville Bridge on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Taftsville. The Ottauquechee River was raging below the bridge, which was closed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

  • A portion of Spectacle Pond Road is closed to due to damage from flooding in Grafton, N.H., on Monday, July 10, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Alex Driehaus

Published: 7/10/2023 8:53:32 PM
Modified: 7/12/2023 5:15:54 PM

WOODSTOCK — Heavy rain, flash floods and rising rivers closed roads, damaged infrastructure and forced evacuations around the Upper Valley on Monday, as the region was expected to see its worst flooding since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The worst flooding was expected Monday night and in the early morning hours on Tuesday as water levels peak in area rivers.

The town of Hartford issued an evacuation order Monday afternoon for those who live and work along the White River.

“The White River will cover the entire valley in some areas, and there will be widespread, devastating damage,” town officials said in an announcement. “Homes and businesses near the river will be inundated and some may be swept off their foundations.”

Officials expected parts of routes 14 and 107 would be covered by floodwaters and damaged or destroyed.

Construction of a replacement bridge to connect Route 114 in Hartford Village to VA Cutoff Road was forced to shut down due to flooding of the White River that engulfed a low-lying temporary bridge.

The $24 million state project will include a full bridge replacement with a wider structure and a new realignment with Christian Street.

The construction crew was scheduled to pour the pier foundations this week, but engineer Jay Strong of the Vermont Department of Transportation, or VTrans, said the team will have to reassess the impact from the flood once the water levels subside.

“It’s hard to know what the damage is,” Strong said in regard to the effect on the project’s schedule.

Strong noted that the construction work on Route 114 in conjunction with this bridge was not affected by the storm and will continue as scheduled.

Thetford residents living along Route 132 were asked Monday evening to evacuate by the Thetford Emergency Management because culverts were failing and beginning to overrun with water from the Ompompanoosuc River.

“Route 132 is currently intact so this is the time to evacuate,” town officials wrote in a statement posted at 7:45 p.m.

In Woodstock, severe flooding forced the closure of several roads on Monday, including a portion of Route 4 between Westerdale Road and Knapp Drive, which was still shut down as of 5 p.m. The town also closed three covered bridges due to dangerously high water levels on the Ottauquechee River — Taftsville Covered Bridge, Lincoln Covered Bridge and Middle Covered Bridge in Woodstock Village.

Flash flooding also resulted in the evacuation of Riverside Mobile Home Park, which abuts the Ottauquechee River.

Town Manager Eric Duffy declined to release the number of families impacted at Riverside but said that the residents have been placed in a local motel.

“Our firefighters, police officers and Department of Public Works have done a great job managing the situation and they will continue to have a heavy presence in the community (as the storm persists),” Duffy told the Valley News.

Some businesses bordering the Ottauquechee River were closed on Monday or announced plans to either open late or remain closed on Tuesday.

At the Woodstock Farmers Market on Woodstock Road, co-owner Amelia Rappaport stood in the parking lot Monday afternoon with town resident Bill Battilana, eyeing the flooded grounds surrounding a separate building used as the market’s business office.

“Floodwater hasn’t gotten into the (store) building, but it’s still scary and stressful,” Rappaport said. “There’s going to be a lot of cleaning up tomorrow but so we’ve been lucky.”

In preparing for this storm, the market employees applied what they learned from Hurricane Irene in 2011, when sections of the store were flooded with about 3 feet of water, destroying inventory and knocking equipment off the workstations.

Rappaport said employees spent several hours on Monday clearing inventory from the bottom shelves as a precaution. The store will be closed on Tuesday so the staff can restore everything to its proper place.

“Putting things back is going to take a while,” Rappaport said.

Battilana, who had videotaped outside the Farmers Market during Hurricane Irene, said the only comparison so far between Monday’s flooding and Irene was the velocity of the Ottauquechee’s flow. During Irene, Battilana said, the water outside the Farmers Market was several feet high and that the Ottauquechee was filled with debris, including propane tanks.

By early afternoon in Bethel, recreation fields were flooded and a brook that blasted over its banks had temporarily closed Route 12 nearby.

A shelter set up at White River Valley School’s Bethel Campus had registered 11 names by 1:30 or so, but many people who had checked in had returned home to check on pets before planning to return for the night, Denise Guilmette, a member of the town’s Emergency Shelter Committee, said at the school.

Bethel officials set up a shelter at the Town Hall on Sunday, but moved it to the school Monday morning.

Greg Timmins, assistant chief of the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, said any resident concerned about their safety should evacuate. The department had already helped several people seek alternate shelter and was standing by to help further.

When in doubt, “evacuate,” Timmins said. “Call 911 and we can respond and assist them.”

Bethel was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene, and the steady rain and rising water reminded residents of the 2011 disaster.

“It’s just like Hurricane Irene,” Mark Helman, a driver for a Bethel auto parts store, said while stopping at the town’s Central Market. In his travels Monday, he noted that Route 107 was closed. (A VTrans dump truck was parked across the highway to block it at the intersection with Route 12.)

The market had done a brisk business Monday, with people stocking up on sandwich fixings and other staples.

“It’s been crazy,” said JoAnn Miller, a clerk at the store, who was wondering how she would be able to get home to South Royalton.

By later in the afternoon, Route 14 was closed both north and south of its intersection with Route 110 at South Royalton. Several town roads were washed out in places. Water had begun to encroach on part of Hurricane Flats, a vegetable farm that flooded during Irene, and the pastures of a horse farm farther down the same road were covered by floodwater.

As of Monday afternoon, communities on the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley had not seen as much flooding as in Vermont, though portions of multiple roads had been washed out in the Mascoma Valley towns of Canaan, Enfield and Grafton. Lockehaven and Ibey roads were among the ones impacted in Enfield.

“It was just so much water it overwhelmed culverts and the roadside ditches,” said Enfield Police Chief Roy Holland, who also serves as the town’s emergency management director. “I haven’t seen damage to roads like this from a storm since 2005.”

Town employees are monitoring “known hazard spots” including the Baltic Mills dam, Lovejoy Brook and where the Mascoma River flows on Main Street.

Potato Road, which runs from Enfield to Canaan, was also flooded. Portions of nearby South Road followed. Town officials were paying close attention to the roads and keeping an eye on downtown Canaan Village, which has been prone to flooding in the past, said Canaan Police Chief Ryan Porter.

Bob Barrett said the rain and damage is the worst he’s seen since he moved to his home on South Road in 2017. After seeing photos of the road washouts posted on a community Facebook page, he went for a walk Monday morning to take a closer look.

Peering into the ditches, he said it looked like they were 6 feet deep and water was still rushing through, as well as down embankments. When Barrett had attended the farmers market in town on Sunday, he recalled, he’d talked with neighbors who shared concerns about the saturation of the ground that weeks of rain had caused and their worries about what could happen.

“It was coming,” Barrett said in a phone interview. “You could see it coming if the rain didn’t let up.”

While the immediate rain was a problem, town officials were also worried about the days to come.

“If we keep getting this much rain I don’t where else the water is going to go,” Porter said, echoing a concern shared by others.

Last month, Grafton and Sullivan county towns were hit with washouts after a storm swept through. So far, those areas in Plainfield have been spared, said Plainfield Town administrator Steve Halleran. Town officials have been keeping an eye on the rising levels of the portion of the Connecticut River that flows through town.

“It’s just a matter of a little time going by to see what the effect is,” Halleran said. “I think the comparisons that people typically make are Irene in 2011 and the one that people make who have lived here a really long time ... have been comparing this summer to is the summer of 1973, which was absolutely catastrophic for Plainfield and other Upper Valley towns.”

Lebanon High School planned to open as an emergency shelter at 8 p.m., said Jeffrey Libbey, Lebanon’s Assistant Fire Chief.

“We’re not expected to reach action stage until anywhere between 10 and 11 o’clock tonight,” Libbey said Monday evening.

The Connecticut River was expected to crest in the early-morning hours Tuesday. City officials were also monitoring the Mascoma River.

“It’s always a concern and we’ll keep an eye on it,” Libbey said. “The bigger concern is what’s coming out of the White River now and going into the Connecticut.”

Amtrak services were canceled between Springfield, Mass., and St. Albans, Vt., because of a track that washed out in Roxbury, Vt., according to an announcement posted to the town of Hartford’s website. Bus service was provided to passengers. Hartford’s Parks and Recreation Department closed Watson Park and Watson Dog Park in Hartford Village; Erwin Clifford Park in West Hartford; George Ratcliffe Park in White River Junction; Kilowatt North and Kilowatt South in Wilder; and Quechee Falls Park in Quechee.

Among the roads that were closed in Enfield Sunday evening are Lockehaven Road, between Ibey and Boys Camp roads, according to an announcement from the Enfield Police Department that was sent out on the town’s Listserv late Sunday night. Potato Road was also closed near the Enfield/Canaan town line. As of Monday shortly before 4 p.m., all roads in Enfield had been reopened.

In Canaan, South Road was closed from Potato Road to Gristmill Hill Road, and from Potato Road to Choate Road, according to an announcement posted to the “Canaan, NH Fire Department & Emergency Management” Facebook page late Sunday night. Additionally, Wescott Road and Englehardt Lane are also closed. Among the damaged roads are Jerusalem Road near Orange Road and Fernwood Farms Road.

On Monday afternoon, the town announced that Potato Road and Graceville Road were closed to through traffic “until further notice” due to the flooding.

Half Moon Pond Road and Spectacle Pond Road in Grafton were both closed, Sara Hogue, the administrative assistant for the town’s Selectboard, said shortly after 11:30 Monday morning. Kinsman Road, Hardy Hill Road and Grafton Pond Road all had washouts, but were passable.

In Sunapee, portions of Prospect Hill Road, Granite Ridge Road, and Jobs Creek were washed out, according to a Monday morning announcement from the town.

“Several roads have soft shoulders that are deteriorating,” according to the announcement, which asked commuters to be cautious during their morning drives. Members of the town’s fire and highway departments were monitoring town roads, as the rain was expected to continue through Tuesday morning. “Efforts will be made to make critical repairs as the teams deal with diverting water and preparing for more rain.”

Staff writer Patrick Adrian can be reached at, staff writer Alex Hanson can be reached at, and staff writer Liz Sauchelli can be reached at

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