National News

Vermont Gov. Scott Calls Flash Flooding ‘Historic and Catastrophic’

A woman rows a paddle board in a flooded area in Montpelier, Vt., July 11, 2023. Severe storms that left at least one dead in Orange County, N.Y., dumped heavy rainfall at intense rates over parts of the Northeast, forcing road closures, water rescues, and urgent warnings about life-threatening flash floods. (Photo: OSV News/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Heavy rains July 9 and 10 caused significant flooding primarily in Vermont but also in other parts of New England and New York killing at least one person and damaging property. Thousands of Vermonters lost homes and businesses in the floods, and rising waters  washed-out roadways and bridges, stranding many in the region.

“Make no mistake — the devastation and flooding we’re experiencing across Vermont is historic and catastrophic,” the state’s governor, Phil Scott, said during a July 11 news conference just hours after President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state.

Immediate work involved rescuing more than 100 people by boat or helicopter, and then state officials began assessing the damage July 11 when the rains stopped and rivers began to recede.

“We are not out of the woods,” Scott said, noting that more rain was expected later in the week. “This is nowhere near over, and at this phase our primary focus continues to be on life and safety before we can shift into a recovery phase,” he added.

 The storm dumped more than eight inches of rain on some parts of Vermont, and also hit areas in New York and New Hampshire. A 43-year-old woman died in flash flooding in New York July 9 while trying to rescue her father’s dog.

Ellen Kane, executive director of development and communications for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, said that although most Catholic churches in the diocese were not damaged, several churches, halls, and rectories had significant basement flooding.. 

She told The Tablet that diocesan officials were waiting for the state to set priorities before initiating diocesan aid response. At least one church hall was used as an emergency shelter for the community and first responders.

A Padre Pio relic tour scheduled to take place July 13-16 in the Burlington Diocese has been postponed due to road conditions caused by the flooding.

In New York, the Mid-Hudson and Finger Lakes regions were also deluged with heavy rains.

Highland Falls, New York, in particular, experienced torrential rains and flash flooding. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish there announced on its website that if anyone needed food, shelter, or water that they should come to the parish school where the Red Cross had established a disaster relief area and was providing essential items.

The parish website also urged parishioners to support flood relief through monetary donations to the parish food pantry. 

“This is the new normal,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said July 10, speaking about the climate change’s impact on flooding. She said people must “be prepared for the worst because the worst continues to happen.”

Father Alan Tremblay, pastor of the Parish of the Holy Spirit in Keene, New Hampshire, another town affected by flash flooding, said the parish would be offering help as needs became clear. 

“People here look out for each other,” he told the Vermont Catholic, Burlington’s diocesan publication, adding that the Church always strives to connect with people in need and that parishioners were standing ready to help.