By Curt Peterson
According to the Killington Hazard Mitigation Planning Team, the four possible natural disasters to which the town is most vulnerable are, extreme cold, snow, and ice association with winter storms, high winds, thunder/tropical storms, tornadoes, and severe winter storms, wildlife, flash flooding and fluvial erosion associated with thunder/tropical storms.
All four are rated highly likely, with a 75% probability in a year regarding risk. Rating risk levels is the first step in mitigation planning, which is modeled on the 2018 Vermont State Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Stephanie Bourque, an emergency management planner at Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC), presented the draft Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) June 15, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Flooding is the most common recurring hazard event in Vermont,” according to the state plan.
“Tropical Storm Irene…dropped up to 10-11 inches of rain in some areas of Rutland County,” the draft LHMP reports. “Irene caused two deaths and $55,000,000 in reported property damages and $2.5 million in crop damages in Rutland County.”
“Killington experienced $2,217,295 in local damages during Irene,” adds the LHMP.
Flood damage in Killington usually impacts roads, bridges and culverts. The town possesses more than 500 bridges and culverts, and has replaced more than 100 since Irene. The LHMP acknowledges increased monitoring of historically stable waterways subject to stability loss as climate changes.
Wetlands are able to absorb excess water present due to “inundation”, or stream/river “water [rising] onto adjoining land”. “Flash flooding” associated with extreme rainfall can overwhelm natural absorption and cause severe “fluvial erosion” of stream and river banks, severely damaging property and public infrastructure.
Killington experiences 46 inches of rain in an average year, and 240 inches of snow — a lot of water for the natural waterway system consisting of the Ottauquechee River and eight tributary streams.
The highway department is able to deal effectively with regular snowstorms but storms can cause power outages quite often. Local customers experience 7.86 powerless hours per year on average.
Wind can “result in downed trees, damaged phone and power lines, buildings and other property,” according to the LHMP. Key municipal buildings are equipped with power generating equipment. The new emergency services building is designated as the logistical center during outages and other extreme events. Killington Elementary School would be the emergency shelter.
Four extreme winter storms have earned federal Disaster Declarations in Rutland County since 1998.
Wildfire, “any outdoor fire that is not controlled, supervised, or prescribed,” is a probable hazard as well. In the last six years, Killington experienced an average of three wildfires per year. Most wildfires in Vermont are caused by the burning of debris.
The LHMP provides a “bottom line analysis” of the various risks. Flash flooding and fluvial erosion, with an impact estimated at $2,217,295, mostly damage to infrastructure, high wind events, which might produce $50,000 in local damage, and extreme cold, snow and/or ice conditions that can cause $16,850 in local damage to roads, culverts, bridges, trees, power lines, and telecommunication systems, all have a 75% probability of occurring in any year.
Killington can’t control the increasing probability of extreme hazards. But, the LHMP says, “it is possible to determine what the hazards are, where the hazards are most severe, and identify local actions and policies that can be implemented to reduce the severity of the hazard.”
Lisa Davis, Killington planner, explained, “We have only completed the first half of the process which … was largely to identify and inventory risks. Once we receive comments on the work done to date we will move forward with mitigation strategies including policy recommendations.”
After a second public meeting the planning team will pass the work on to the Select Board, then to FEMA for their final approval. If approved by FEMA, the Select Board will have the opportunity to approve the plan.