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Vermont city fears unprecedented dam failure

President Joe Biden approved Vermont's emergency declaration as numerous towns are dealing with flooding.
Vermont city fears unprecedented dam failure
Posted at 3:58 AM, Jul 11, 2023

City officials in Montpelier, Vermont, warned of a "potentially dangerous situation" Tuesday morning, saying that the city's Wrightsville Dam was in danger of overflowing. 

Throughout Monday and into Tuesday, the city was inundated with heavy rain. Since late Sunday night, more than 6 inches of rain has fallen in Montpelier, according to the National Weather Service.  

The National Weather Service said that some areas of Vermont reached over 9 inches of rain by late Monday.

The heavy rain has overwhelmed dams and rivers in the region. 

Montpelier's city manager William Fraser said if the Wrightsville Dam exceeds its capacity, water would be released into the North Branch River for the first time. Officials said there is no precedent for potential damage, but officials expect that it would "add to the existing flood damage." 

"This will be particularly bad along the North Branch River corridor and into the downtown. Unfortunately, there are very few evacuation options remaining. People in at-risk areas may wish to go to upper floors in their houses," Fraser said.

As of midday Tuesday, the dam was about a foot away from overflowing. Officials said some flooding in downtown Montpelier had subsided, but the situation remains an "active emergency."

SEE MORE: Extreme flooding overwhelms New York roadways, kills 1 person

The city has asked for swift water rescue teams to be on standby. It also warned that police communications could be "incapacitated" if flooding increases. 

Meanwhile, the city warned that tap water could be contaminated. They urged residents to boil drinking water before consuming. 

The nearby Winooski River also was causing significant flooding. The river reached 20.8 feet Tuesday morning, 5.8 feet above flood stage. It is the highest the river has been since 1927. 

Montpelier was far from the only city to deal with severe flooding. The National Weather Service reported that the Lamoille River in Jeffersonville was 4 feet above flood stage and nearing a record of 454.5 feet. The Otter Creek was also about 8 feet above its flood stage near Center Rutland.

Late Monday, President Joe Biden approved Vermont's emergency declaration. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy resources and provide assistance during the flood event. 

The National Weather Service expects dry conditions for the rest of Tuesday for most of New England. There is a chance of widespread rain by late Thursday.

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