Relentless rain floods roads in Northeast, leads to evacuations, rescues

By KATHY McCORMACK

Associated Press

Published: 07-10-2023 1:04 PM

Rescue teams raced into Vermont on Monday after heavy rain drenched parts of Northeast, washing out roads, forcing evacuations and halting some airline travel. One person was killed in New York as she was trying to leave her home.

Mike Cannon of Vermont Urban Search and Rescue said crews from North Carolina, Michigan and Connecticut were among those helping to get to towns that have been unreachable since torrents of rain belted the state overnight.

Cannon said the hardest hit area are along the mountainous areas of the Green Mountains in the state’s southern and central counties. The towns of Londonderry and Weston were inaccessible, and rescuers were heading there to do welfare checks. A state park in Plymouth was being evacuated, and water levels at several dams were being monitored.

The slow-moving storm reached New England in the morning after hitting parts of New York and Connecticut on Sunday. More downpours in the region were expected Monday.

One of the worst hit places was New York’s Hudson Valley, where rescuers found the body of a woman in her 30s whose home was surrounded by water. The force of the flash flooding dislodged boulders, which rammed the woman’s house and damaged part of its wall, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told The Associated Press. Two other people escaped.

“She was trying to get through (the flooding) with her dog,” Neuhaus said, “and she was overwhelmed by tidal-wave type waves.”

He said many roads and bridges were washed out. Officials believed everyone was accounted for, but they were trying to reach people to make sure they were OK.

Officials say the storm has already wrought tens of millions of dollars in damage. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday that the storm sent “cars swirling in our streets” and dumped a “historic” amount of rain.

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“Nine inches of rain in this community,” Hochul said during a briefing on a muddy street in Highland Falls. “They’re calling this a ‘1,000 year event.’”

Hochul announced a state of emergency Sunday for Orange County. That included the town of Cornwall, near the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, where many roads were flooded and closed off.

The storm also interrupted air and rail travel. As of early Monday, there were hundreds of flight cancellations at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports and more than 200 canceled at Boston’s Logan Airport in the last 24 hours, according to the Flightaware website. Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York. In Vermont, some 25 state roads were closed.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said swift-water rescue teams from outside the state were needed.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck response,” he said at a Monday press conference. “We have not seen rainfall like this since Irene, and in some places, it will surpass even that.”

Scott was referring to Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, when the state got 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours. Irene killed six in the state, washed homes off their foundations and damaged or destroyed more than 200 bridges and 500 miles (805 kilometers) of highway.

Scott declared a state of emergency on Sunday. Some campers and people caught in their homes were rescued in central and southern Vermont, said Mark Bosma, spokesperson for the state emergency management office.

By the morning, some towns reported 2 1/2 to 4 inches (6.35 centimeters to 10.16 centimeters) of rain since midnight, and similar totals were expected during the day, said Robert Haynes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont.

“We still look like we’re on track for that potentially significant, locally catastrophic flooding,” Haynes said.

“This is one of those unique events that we don’t see very often around here,” meteorologist Marlon Verasamy in Burlington said of Monday’s storm.

He said the ground was already saturated and rivers were relatively high from recent heavy rains. Parts of southern Vermont had mudslides and road flooding from a storm Friday night into Saturday morning.

“It’s the same area being hit today,” he said.

Several communities in western Massachusetts have reported flooded and washed out roads, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said Monday.

The fire departments in Adams, North Adams and Clarksburg in the northwestern part of the state close to the New York and Vermont borders are also assisting homeowners with in pumping out basements, spokesperson Sara Porter said.

A portion of Route 57 in Tolland was also flooded, she said. In Williamsburg, firefighters were trying to rescue someone who had become trapped in their home by floodwaters, emergency manager Denise Banister said.

Flash flooding and washed out roads were reported in western Connecticut and along the state’s shoreline. In Norfolk on Monday morning, fire officials said several culverts along Route 272 had crumbled or moved and about 50 homes had been cut off by flood waters that destroyed the roads leading to those properties.

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