Vermont starts long road to recovery from historic floods, helped by army of volunteers

President Joe Biden on Friday approved Governor Phil Scott’s request for a major disaster declaration to provide federal support

Vermont floods
Jodi Kelly and her husband Dan Kelly use a canoe to remove surgical supplies from their flood-damaged vet center on July 11, 2023, in Montpelier, Vt.Steven Senne (AP)

Vermonters are working to dry out homes and businesses damaged by this week’s historic flooding and keeping a wary eye on the horizon with another round of storms on the horizon. More rain is expected Sunday. President Joe Biden on Friday approved Gov. Phil Scott’s request for a major disaster declaration to provide federal support.

The storms have been blamed for two deaths, including a woman in New York state and a 63-year-old man in Barre, Vermont, who drowned in his home. Scott also said late Friday he has requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a disaster designation for the state due to damage to crops.

The Marshfield Village Store, which sits at the junction of two country highways in a tiny Vermont town, has become a little bit of everything in recent days as residents struggle to recover from historic floods that battered the state.

First the shop in Marshfield, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) east of the state’s biggest city, Burlington, served as a shelter for about three dozen people. By Friday it was a distribution center for much-needed fresh water and a go-to for supplies.

“We’re about to start putting it out more formally, if there are other folks who haven’t been able to get the support that they need yet, so that we can get equipment and volunteers to them, emergency medication, work on their properties, that’s where we’re at right now,” said Michelle Eddleman McCormick, the store’s general manager.

Storms dumped up to two months’ worth of rain in a couple of days in parts of the region earlier this week, surpassing the amount that fell when Tropical Storm Irene blew through in 2011 and caused major flooding. Officials called this week’s flooding the state’s worst natural disaster since floods in 1927, and some suggested storms like this showed the impacts of climate change. More rain is expected in the coming days.

The flooding has been blamed for one death: Stephen Davoll, 63, drowned in his home Wednesday in Barre, a central Vermont city of about 8,500 people, according to Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma. He urged people to continue taking extra care as they return to their homes and repair damage.

“The loss of a Vermonter is always painful, but it is particularly so this week,” U.S. Sen. Peter Welch said in statement.

It was the second flood-related death stemming from a storm system and epic flooding in the Northeast this week. The first was in upstate New York, where a woman was swept away by floodwaters in Fort Montgomery, a small Hudson River community about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of New York City.

President Joe Biden on Friday approved Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s request for a major disaster declaration to provide federal support. Scott also said late Friday he has requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a disaster designation for the state due to damage to crops.

Farms were hit hard, just after many growers endured a hard freeze in May. It’s expected to “destroy a large share of our produce and livestock feed,” Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said at a news conference. It was too soon to determine damage costs, he said.

“In our mountainous state, much of our most fertile farmland lies in river valleys, and countless fields of corn, hay, vegetables, fruit, and pasture were swamped and buried,” Scott said.

Assessors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were scheduled to begin inspecting hard hit areas of Vermont on Saturday. That will help determine who will qualify for government assistance. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also scheduled to arrive in the state next week to survey flood damage.

The state and others in the Northeast, including New Hampshire and Maine, are bracing for more wet weather expected to hit Sunday and into next week. The New Hampshire Department of Safety and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services said they are closely monitoring water levels across the state.

“We don’t know the extent of some of these storms,” Scott said.

With more rain coming, it’s critical that residents adhere to safety restrictions as they dig out of the storm, said Miro Weinberger, mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city.

“We continue to operate under a state of emergency, and more heavy rain is expected Sunday. Again, I urge you to heed all road closures and all directions from state and local officials, including to stay away from the river banks, brooks, and

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