Storms Bring Flash Flooding To Barre, Plainfield

Jul 20, 2015

Severe thunderstorms dumped 3.5 to 4 inches of rain on central Vermont on Sunday night and Monday morning causing flash flooding in Barre and Plainfield. The flooding displaced some families in Barre and inundated several businesses. 

Monday afternoon, Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier said seven residential structures were uninhabitable out of a total of 80 that were damaged by flooding. Some were multi-family homes. Bombardier says emergency management officials are still assessing the damage.

“I don’t know that we have any that are a total loss from what I’ve seen. I may be wrong on that, but I don’t think it’s going to be seven,” said Bombardier.

Bombardier says two people had to be rescued from a swamped car and a number of other vehicles were abandoned on Main Street as the water rose.

The state Emergency Operations Center was activated, and a shelter opened at the Barre Auditorium to help roughly 10 families overnight after downpours forced them from their homes. Dispatcher Cathy Degreenia said they were primarily from the area of North Main Street and Route 62, Brook Street and Harrington Avenue. 

On Monday morning, a thick layer of mud covered streets and sidewalks at the edge of downtown. Jim Boudreault, who works for Norway and Sons Electrical Contractors, was helping with the cleanup this morning at the company’s office on North Main Street. 

Boudreault says the damage wasn’t as bad as 2011 flooding that hit Barre.

“We’re cleaning mud out of the carpet right now. I don’t know if we’re going to have to change the carpets or not. Last time we had to cut the walls up about a foot because it was a lot deeper. This time we’re a lot better," he said.

By afternoon the July sun had baked the mud and the work of the cleanup crew stirred up a thick cloud of dust that settled over the city.

A few feet from Gunner Brook, which had overflowed its banks the night before, Dylan Mason was attempting to clean the house his mother rented on Harrington Ave.  

“The basement was completely full of water. There’s about two or three feet of mud in the basement right now after we drained the water,” he said.

For Mason and those who live along the short side street that slopes down away from the brook, this was déjà vu.

It’d didn’t take him long to recognize this was a repeat of a 2011 flood that affected the same area.

“I got here, I watched it and as soon as I saw a log in it, I said ‘grab your stuff, we’ve got to go again,”  Mason said.

In neighboring Plainfield one village bridge was damaged and road crews are working to repair numerous washouts along back roads. 

A bridge was damaged in Plainfield and road crews are working to repair numerous washouts along back roads.
Credit Steve Zind / VPR

Colchester Technical Rescue, Stowe Mountain Rescue, Vermont State Police Tactical Unit and the Vermont National Guard were in Barre helping with evacuations through water over roads, said Mark Bosma of the Department of Public Safety. "At one point last night there were probably a couple dozen people at the shelter in Barre,” said Bosma.

Many local and state roads were closed for a time last night, including Route 14, Route 302 and Route 2. Multiple streets in Barre flooded, although the water had subsided by Monday morning. Updated road closure information can be found at 511vt.com.

The storm also brought high winds. Vermont Electric Cooperative says a microburst brought down trees and power lines in Bloomfield, Brighton, Brunswick, Ferdinand, Guildhall and Maidstone. Green Mountain Power is also reporting outages, mostly in Orange County. As of 8:00 a.m., around 700 utility customers were without power.

Because the area in Barre has flooded before, there have been discussions about removing some houses.

Commissioner Noelle MacKay of the Department of Housing and Community Development says Barre and the flooded area are included in a draft study for the Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative.

She says removing homes and carrying out all the recommendations of the study could be an expensive process.

"We also know that it’s a complicated process that would take a long time because these are affordable houses, so we need to think about where else we could create homes for folks," says MacKay. "The idea is to repair some of the retaining walls here and then allow for a flood plain so some of this debris could collect.”

Update 5:03 p.m. This post has been updated with additional reporting from Barre.