“flooding devastates vermont”

August 29th, 2011 | Other Projects

How odd to read that headline. I’m only just starting to grasp the extent of the storm damage here, after watching the news and reading the Times online…which I couldn’t do for the last 30 hours because the power was out.

I was going about my business yesterday morning, thinking things weren’t going to be too bad. It was windy and rainy, but no more than it often is. The electricity went out around noon, but that happens all the time too, here in my mountain redoubt. We got out the candles and the headlamps. Here I am drawing last night.


Hol and I had a crank radio that we listened to from time to time and we heard people calling in with reports of flooding and bridges washing out. But somehow, without the visuals, it didn’t sink in fully. Still no power this morning. I checked Twitter as I was charging my phone in my car, and started seeing all these stunning photographs of Richmond, the town near me. The ramp to the interstate was underwater. The river was running through the town.

Hol and I got in the car and drove down the hill to see what was happening. At the bottom, here’s what we found.


We watched a couple cars plow through the water–it was about two feet deep. We turned around and went home. When the power hadn’t come on by 3pm, we decided to make our way into Burlington to recharge our devices. We had to go a long, roundabout way because of the flooding.

On our way back home, we crossed the Winooski River bridge which was lined with people watching the surging floodwaters. All the rain from the hundreds and hundreds of brooks and streams all across the state was churning through the mouth of this river into Lake Champlain.

It was much worse in the southern part of the state than up here in the north. I’m a little concerned about our friend NLC, who last checked in here at 2:30 am on Sunday. I hope it’s just a power outage and that he will report in soon.

37 Responses to ““flooding devastates vermont””

  1. NLC says:

    Sorry for not responding sooner. All is quite well.

    Our place is on enough of hillside that we never in any risk of flooding, beyond some basement-y issues (which in the current scope of things doesn’t really count….)

    We basically just hunkered down and waited out Sunday. We were fine, and similarly to what AB describes above didn’t realize what had been going on around us until after the fact. (For example if we had needed to get out on Sunday we probably wouldn’t have been able to. Locally we were fine, but there were enough flooded-over roads that we were an island.)

    For those “From Away” flooding in Vermont is often an issue of what you are close to. There’s a goodly amount of “river flooding”; i.e. a river rising and overflowing its banks, which can be pretty quick. But there is as also the flash flooding from the streams, which are carrying water down from the mountains these can be damn near instantaneous, and are often more dangerous in that before the stream overflows its banks it can look like your standard calendar-shapshot-perfect babbling brook.

    This is made worse if there, of course, if there is flat open land surround the stream/creek. (For here, substitute “farm land” or “housing development”.) The other aspect of topography in Vermont is that a flash flood can be a pretty local event.

    In the nearest big town (Brattleboro) a stream that flows through the middle of town flooded over its bank and hammered a number of businesses (including the Lachis –Brattleboro’s only remaining movie theater– and the not-very-old building hosting the New England Youth Theater, among several others. On the other hand –not to minimize the disaster– the next street over (which is some 20+ feet higher in elevation) was basically untouched.

    Likewise, a lot farms. My daughter was getting gas this afternoon and the owner of a locally-famous farm stand was there recounting how he had spent this morning watching this year’s pumpkin and gourd crop floating away towards the Connecticut River.

  2. yay!
    glad you’re safe, NLC.

    I wonder where those gourds will end up?

  3. Terry & Helen says:

    We’re just really glad to hear that things are OK. It will obviously be hard to get from “here to there” for quite awhile from what we hear. Please keep all posted, we’ll check back!

  4. Vicious says:

    I know how it feels just got out of flooding in NSW :S

  5. Dana in LA says:

    So glad to hear y’all are ok. I was wondering.

  6. Pam I says:

    Glad you’re OK, I was thinking of you.

    I once had a flash flood leave three feet of dirty water in the basement. Took months to sort out and is a pretty disgusting task, as things start to rot. Now thousands/millions are facing that task. Yuk.

  7. khatgrrl says:

    We came back from Ludlow on Saturday. We thought we should be home for the storm. Glad we came down when we did. Our road washed out. I’ve seen youtube video of Ludlow and it looks awful. Bridges washed out, downtown underwater. We spoke to our relatives up there and their comment was, “Call us before trying to come up.” Many of the roads to Ludlow were closed and bridges were washed out. I read that they opened Rt. 103 from the south into town. It was very disturbing to hear about Ludlow on CNN.

  8. Howard Cruse says:

    Thanks for reporting in, Alison. In light of all the disaster reports from Vermont, you been very much on Eddie’s and my mind.

  9. Eva says:

    Thanks for posting. You’ve got some kind of work ethic there, I must say. Plugging away at your inking with the headlamp and all.
    I’m glad you turned back at the prospect of driving through 2 feet of water. Very smart decision.
    I went to work on Sunday in Middlesex (just off exit 9 on I-89 for those who know VT) and was told at 4:30 to pack up and go home, as roads were flooding and whole towns flooded nearby (an example is Moretown, where my married couple bosses and their two kids live). RT 2, which is the route I normally take between Montpelier and Middlesex was closed on the Montpelier end, so I was turned back by state police halfway and took the interstate. Thankfully that worked and I got home OK. Between 4:30 and 6pm (which is when I got home) rivers were overflowing their banks all over the state. RT 2 was closed because the Winooski had come up and over the Bailey & State Street (AKA RT2) bridge and water was still standing there early Monday morning. Meanwhile half a dozen businesses in downtown Montp were flooded, including Kismet which had been very badly flooded during the May storm and was just getting itself back on its feet. Still, compared with how it could have been, and with other towns around the region, we got off pretty easy in Montpelier.

  10. Cathy says:

    Thanks for posting (and including the photos). I’m so sorry for what this storm did to Vermont. I’m still waiting to hear from two friends in the state (one lives atop a mountain outside Montpelier, one has a B&B in Woodstock).

  11. Andrew B says:

    It’s good to hear that Vermont blog denizens are ok.

    To emphasize how local these things can be, I’m just a few miles east of Brattleboro (the town NLC mentions). We found ourselves in a slot where we were too far west to see much wind, (just) too far east to see the worst of the rain. If we had been cut off from all media and hadn’t been paying attention to wind direction, we could have mistaken the storm we had Sunday for a strong cold front passing through. Our power never even went out, and our power sometimes goes out in thunderstorms.

    Americans who have been watching the news have probably seen video of the Brattleboro flooding NLC describes. I saw it on at least one national broadcast Sunday evening.

  12. Kate L says:

    I was wondering how you fared in the storm. Thanks for posting!

  13. Frank says:

    Glad to see you stayed dry! My thoughts go out to all Vermonters, like these fine folks : http://www.alchemistbeer.com/act-ii/

  14. judybusy says:

    Glad to hear the Vermonters are alive and well!

  15. Peeka says:

    Been checking your blog to see how you guys were doing. Glad all is well.

  16. Cheryl says:

    ditto Peeka

  17. Deb says:

    As soon as I heard “Vermont” I thought of you. I’m so glad to hear you and yours are all right!

  18. This is an eye-opening video about the devastation in Vermont.


  19. hairball_of_hope says:

    It’s almost Labor Day, and almost the one-year anniversary of the Four Mile Canyon Fire that consumed our pal Andi’s home and those of 168 others. Also almost the one-year anniversary of the San Bruno gas pipe explosion/fire that took out an entire neighborhood and 38 homes.

    I mention this because Andi’s blog, http://www.burningdownthehouseblog.com, is such a joy to read as she travels down the post-fire road. Andi articulates the highs and lows of rebuilding her life and house with total honesty. I’m always amazed that she can do this in the public forum of a blog.

    Her blog would probably be good reading for those who are affected by the Irene floods or any other disaster that upends lives.

    At times like those, when the To Do List seems overwhelming and the urge to curl into the fetal position and hide is strongest, it’s good to see an example (and perhaps role model) of someone picking up the pieces and moving forward.

    (… goes back to a gorgeous day in the city, grateful for all her blessings …)

  20. anna says:

    Glad to hear that you & yours are ok!

  21. […] Bechdel, creator of Dykes to Watch Out For, has posted what she’s experiencing in Vermont as a result of Hurricane Irene’s damage in the area. Hol and I had a crank radio that we listened to from time to time and we heard people calling in […]

  22. Anonymous says:

    For heaven’s sake, get a generator (using your car as a gas-powered generator isn’t exactly environmentally friendly) and at least get your workspace and kitchen rewired to accept the current. It will only cost a few hundred dollars–the rewiring might cost a bit more, depending on the extent and cost of your electrician–and this will save you thousands over time. At the very least, get a simple generator (even if you don’t rewire)–even a hand-cranked one will do. Or, since Hol is quite environmentally conscious, try solar power (there is one which will power your cell phone that you can get through ThinkGeek). But, seriously, if you are out in the woods in Vermont and don’t have an off-the-grid solution for power yet, you really need to get one (read back through your own blog and count up the number of times you are without power–it really is a recurring theme).

  23. khatgrrl says:

    I’m guessing this is the same anonymous as earlier. Quite opinionated….

  24. Vicious says:

    ^^ gotta love anonymous keyboard warriors………….

  25. Fester Bestertester says:

    I have to say that it’s a bit amusing to observe that on a site populated by , “Vicious” or “Mentor” (or, for that matter “Fester Bestertester”, to pick a couple of handy, but far from atypical, examples) anyone would be called out for being Anonymous. Or that, on this of all sites, it would seem necessary to note that anyone in particular is “quite opinionated”, as if that were out of the ordinary.

    Oh well, always good to start an early Sunday morning with a giggle. 😉

  26. hairball_of_hope says:

    @FesterBestertester (#26)

    I think a better word for the tone of the Anonymous post would be “judgmental,” not “opinionated.”

    I don’t think the post was intended to be mean-spirited, just a “wake up and smell the coffee, girls” message, noting that AB and Hol seem to lose power several times a year, and in the opinion and judgment of Anonymous, they didn’t seem as well-prepared as s/he expected. Or perhaps Anonymous values electricity-powered amenities more than AB and Hol do.

    I admit I was surprised that neither NLC nor AB appear to own a battery-powered NOAA all-hazards radio, which automatically turns on and announces the imminent threats of local floods, storms, etc. It’s one thing to rough it when the power goes out (a personal choice that Anonymous seemed to miss), quite another to be unaware of and oblivious to nearby life-threatening flash floods.

    I suspect that Anonymous is new around here, I recall a thread a while back during one of AB’s prior power outages (the electric company’s outage, not hers personally!) where we discussed how to get running water and septic working without the utility grid. NLC and I had some back-and-forth on the power requirements for the water pump, how many kVA, batteries, generators, etc. So if you’re reading this Anonymous, you might consider rereading some older power-loss posts.

    Generators can be a mixed blessing, beyond the economics and eco-effects. Yes, it’s nice to have some power for critical items (no, a TV is not critical, but power for sump pumps and the refrigerator are, IMHO). But the damn things are incredibly noisy, and if you live in suburbia, where there might be multiple generators running 24/7, it’s quite a din. Even in AB’s neck of the woods (and she certainly does live IN the woods), the noise of one generator might be more of an intrusion than she and Hol want to deal with.

    There are other ways to deal with periodic power loss, of course, besides a generator. First up, decide what items are critical to your own safety and comfort. DC-powered sump pumps can be run off of marine deep-cycle lead/acid batteries, and the batteries can be recharged via a running car if necessary. DC inverters that plug into a car’s 12V lighter socket are good for small electronics, such as charging up cell phones, laptops, etc. Larger DC inverters that clamp directly on a 12V lead/acid battery can be used to run more power-intensive items. A bunch of rechargeable NiMH batteries and chargers to power flashlights, radios, etc. are a good idea, and they can be recharged via whatever means are available (car, solar, UPS). A landline (yes, old-fashioned Ma Bell) with a plain wired phone will work in a power outage, VoIP and cells likely will not.

    Anyone who uses a computer in an area with iffy power or frequent storms should have a decent UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). The UPS provides power conditioning so your equipment doesn’t get zapped from storms, and it provides battery backup for power outages. Don’t expect to run a desktop setup for more than 20-30 min on a typical consumer-grade UPS, but you can run a small laptop for a long long time, and charge up your small electronic devices as well. A decent UPS is capable of being “cold-started,” meaning you can get it running without input power (usually you hold down the start switch for a few seconds until it beeps), then you can recharge your electronics.

    Of course, I am in the hyper-prepared category, even though I am now an apartment-dwelling Manhattanite (as a former suburbia/exurbia resident, I was quite accustomed to periodic power loss). I had little trouble during the 2003 blackout, my UPSs kept things running, I charged stuff in the car, I had plenty of bottled water and things I could eat at home. Only thing I missed was hot running water.

    (… goes back to Chez Semper Paratus, awaiting the rest of the Ten Plagues …)

  27. Fester Bestertester says:

    To hairball_of_hope:

    Reading through earlier postings I believe you’ll see that it was not me who used the phrase “quite opinionated”.

  28. Kate L says:


    This manhattanite (in a very different manhattan, practically from a different space-time continuum) remembers when power outages were the norm during stormy summers, and were an occassion for neighbors to come out and get together. Not to take anything away from people who might be powerless for a week or more owing to Irene. And, I still don’t have one of those weather radios, which I should get. This past summer, I realized that it’s hard to hear the local storm sirens through my brand-new, energy-efficient windows!

    Oh, btw, the Fall semester is already underway here at Moo U. A student came to my office to ask a question, and started out by calling me, “Ma’am”. Ma’am. Should I have told the young man to update his language protocol, or should I have simply recalled that Janeway herself was called “ma’am” in the 23rd century???

  29. Glad that you and H. are okay. There is, there’s some kind of intense metaphor to see you working with the intense spotlight from the headlamp.

    (My dear ones in the hill towns around here use them for all sorts of hands-free work in the dark. I want one for night triking.)

  30. Andi says:

    20. h_o_h, Thanks for the shout out HOH, it’s a privilege to have readers from the DTWOF community. Hang in there Alison, and let us know when your power comes on. I use my solar/hand crank radio a lot during winter power outages in the Colorado mountains. Mostly to listen to NPR. Lynne Rosetto Kasper, sigh.

    Sending love and strength to those Vermonters under water.

  31. Kate L says:

    If anyone can pull through this mess, Vermontaineers can, ayay!

    Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin has announced she’s running for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. She would be the first openly gay U.S. senator! And, please let me add, Oh baby, Oh BABY! 🙂

  32. Acilius says:

    @Kate L: That’s good news about Tammy Baldwin, thanks for sharing it. She’s one of the few politicians to whose campaigns I’ve given money from time to time, and one of even fewer who has never made me regret the donation.

  33. Mentor says:

      — What Issa Heard

    Two hundred years ago Issa heard the morning birds
    singing sutras to this suffering world.

    I heard them too, this morning, which must mean,

    since we will always have a suffering world,
    we must also always have a song.

      — David Budbill

    [Be well, my friends. –Mentor]

  34. shadocat says:

    Happy Birthday, Alison!

  35. Vicious says:

    Happy birthday from Australia!