After Weekend Ice Jams Cause Flooding, Two Vermont Towns Are Assessing Damages

Jan 15, 2018

Residents around the region are recovering after ice jams clogged some rivers and caused flooding over the weekend. The ice jams resulted from a wild temperature swing and mix of rain and snow.

Two towns in Vermont were particularly hard hit: Johnson and Swanton. In Johnson, the Lamoille River flooded parts of the downtown on Saturday. Several apartment buildings were evacuated and Route 15 was closed.

Inventory and refrigeration units were damaged at Johnson’s Sterling Market, but Town Manager Brian Story says the store plans to be back open in a limited capacity by next week.

Johnson’s post office and town library were flooded, and Story says the village sewage treatment plant was also affected.

“It was flooded, pretty severely, but they did not have to discharge any waste into the river. They managed the situation very well,” Story says.

Thanks to past experience, Story says damage to the library was limited.

“We’re aware of the flooding problems that exist in the basement, so we don’t store anything essential in the basement anymore if we can help it,” says Story.

As far as he knows, Story says everyone who was evacuated is now back in their homes.

In Swanton meanwhile, ice jams caused flooding on the Missisquoi River on Saturday. About 24 homes near the river were evacuated, according to Swanton Village Police Chief Leonard Stell.

A six-mile ice jam flooded areas near the river, including parts of Route 78. Stell says the extent of the damage to flooded homes, roads and infrastructure isn’t known at this point.

“The water just started receding today, so we’ve got a lot of unanswered questions,” Stell says.

Stell says it’s been two decades since he’s seen flooding like this.

“The last time this extent of flooding happened that I can recall, was the ice storm, I think it was, of ’98, but it didn’t last this duration,” Stell says.

Stell says an evacuation shelter in Swanton will likely close soon, as nearly all evacuated families have found alternate places to stay. But he says it’s unclear when they’ll be able to return to their homes.

Listen to Swanton Village Police Chief Leonard Stell's full conversation with VPR's Henry Epp above.