On July 10, 2024

On flood anniversary, Vt again faces heavy, potentially dangerous rains

By Juan Vega de Soto/VTDigger

On July 10 last year, heavy rains that had begun the night before unleashed catastrophic floods across Vermont. 

This Wednesday, exactly a year later, torrential downpours may once again threaten the state with flooding, according to a forecast issued Monday, July 8, by the National Weather Service. 

The culprit? The collision of Tropical System Beryl with the hot, humid air already hanging over the state, according to Seth Kutikoff, a meteorologist from the Burlington branch of the National Weather Service.

“This fuels heavy rain and thunderstorms,” said Kutikoff.

And although the current expectation is a widespread 1 to 2 inches of rain — with some areas getting 2 to 4 inches — there “are increasing indications” the state could see up to 4-6 inches between Wednesday and Friday mornings, according to the weather service, “with isolated 6-8 inches” in some towns.

If that materializes, the rainfall “would be comparable” to the 3-9 inches that fell during a 48-hour-period last July, causing widespread flooding throughout the state, according to the weather service forecast.

A big concern, according to Kutikoff, is that much of northern Vermont has seen twice the amount of rainfall it typically gets around this time of year. Similar conditions were present ahead of last summer’s flooding.

“The soil in some localized areas can’t absorb any more water,” said Kutikoff. 

Still, Kutikoff emphasized that, as of Monday, it remained a worst-case scenario that this week’s flooding could rival last summer’s.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl are expected to hit the state on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, with the potential for “scattered to perhaps numerous flash flooding” events.

“We are not expecting anywhere near the coverage and total amounts of rain we saw last year,” he said.

The most likely outcome is isolated flash floods in areas that sustain the most rain, according to Kutikoff, which is most likely northern part of the state. He is keeping his eye on an east-west line running from Essex County through southern Orleans, Caledonia, Lamoille and Chittenden counties.

“That doesn’t mean there will be flash floods there, just that that’s where the highest risk of them is,” said Kutikoff. 

Kutikoff said the public should not be too concerned about seeing something on the scale of last summer. But he recommended that people take precautions, such as avoiding roads at risk of flash flooding on Wednesday and Thursday and check the NWS forecasts frequently, since conditions could change for better or for worse. 

“There’s still a chance that the heavier rains go up to southern Canada, and there’s still a possibility that rainfall could increase all over Vermont,” said Kutikoff.

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