University of Vermont

Vermont Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN)

University of Vermont Extension

Floods

Hurricane Irene Resources

Background from Vermont Emergency Management:

  We know that flooding has occurred in Vermont in the past and that it will again. It has been of two types—rain or snowmelt. These events may result in widespread damage in major rivers’ floodplains or localized flash flooding caused by unusually large rainstorms over a small area. The effects of both types of events can be worsened by ice or debris dams and the failure of infrastructure (especially culverts), private dams, and beaver dams.

  The worst flood disaster to hit the state occurred on November 3, 1927. This event was caused by nearly ten inches of heavy rain from the remnants of a tropical storm that fell on frozen ground. This flood killed 84 Vermonters. Flooding in the White River valley was particularly violent, with the river flowing at an estimated 900,000 gallons per second on the morning of November 4, 1927 (Vermont Weather Book).

  A prime example of the damage done was in the hamlet of Gaysville, which had a large mill, church, stores, and many residences destroyed during the flood. The worst widespread spring flooding occurred on March 13–19, 1936, when slow-moving storms with warm air combined to drop around eight inches of rain on a late winter snow pack that had a water equivalent of ten inches.

(see UVM's Landscape Change Program and search on flood and post flood for photos)

  The most recent widespread flood occurred on June 28–30, 1973, when up to six inches of rain fell. A presidential disaster was declared for the entire state and damage was estimated at $64 million.

  Within the last several years several floods have affected limited areas of the state. They were usually the result of intense summer thunderstorms. An example was the summer flood of 1998 when torrential rain deluged the Warren, Randolph, and Bradford areas. The overall situation resulted in a presidential disaster designation (FEMA-DR-1228-VT) covering June 17–August 17, 1998.

  Recent studies have shown that most flooding in Vermont occurs in upland streams and road drainage systems that fail to handle the amount of water they receive. Due to steep gradients, flooding may inundate these areas severely, but only briefly. Flooding in these areas generally has enough force to cause erosion capable of destroying roads and collapsing buildings. These areas are often not mapped as being flood prone and property owners in these areas do not typically have flood insurance (DHCA, 1998). Furthermore, precipitation trend analysis suggests that intense local storms are occurring more frequently. Additionally, irresponsible land use and development will exacerbate the pre-existing vulnerability.

Last modified October 06 2011 08:21 PM

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