Rain, flooding continue to slam Northeast: "The river was at our doorstep"
Rescue teams raced into Vermont on Monday after heavy rain drenched parts of the Northeast, washing out roads, forcing evacuations and halting some airline travel. One person was killed in New York's Hudson Valley as she tried to escape her flooded home.
Mike Cannon of Vermont Urban Search and Rescue said crews from North Carolina, Michigan and Connecticut were among those helping to get to towns that have been unreachable since torrents of rain belted the state overnight. The towns of Londonderry and Weston were inaccessible, Cannon said, and rescuers were heading there to do welfare checks. Water levels at several dams were being closely monitored.
There have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the flooding in Vermont, according to state emergency officials. Roads were closed across the state, including many along the spine of the Green Mountains.
Some people canoed their way to the Cavendish Baptist Church in Vermont, which had turned into a shelter. About 30 people waited it out, some of them making cookies for firefighters who were working to evacuate and rescue others.
"People are doing OK. It's just stressful," shelter volunteer Amanda Gross said.
Vermont Rep. Kelly Pajala said she and about half a dozen others had to evacuate early Monday from a four-unit apartment building on the West River in Londonderry.
"The river was at our doorstep," said Pajala. "We threw some dry clothes and our cats into the car and drove to higher ground."
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned Monday evening that it expected two dams in Vermont — the Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica and the Townshend Dam in the Townshend/Windham area — to release "large quantities of water over their spillways. This will result in severe flooding downstream of the dam."
"We anticipate floodwaters to increase rapidly overnight, and we recommend taking precautions now. We encourage everyone to follow the guidance from their local emergency management officials," the Corps' New England District tweeted.
The slow-moving storm reached New England in the morning after hitting parts of New York and Connecticut on Sunday. Additional downpours in the region raised the potential for flash flooding; rainfall in certain parts of Vermont had exceeded 7 inches, the National Weather Service in Burlington said.
One of the worst-hit places was New York's Hudson Valley, where a woman identified by police as Pamela Nugent, 43, died as she tried to escape her flooded home in the hamlet of Fort Montgomery.
The force of the flash flooding dislodged boulders, which rammed into the woman's house and damaged part of its wall, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told The Associated Press. Two other people escaped.
"She was trying to get through (the flooding) with her dog," Neuhaus said, "and she was overwhelmed by tidal wave-type waves."
Officials say the storm has already wrought tens of millions of dollars in damage. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference Monday that the storm sent "cars swirling in our streets" and dumped a "historic" amount of rain.
"Nine inches of rain in this community," Hochul said during a briefing on a muddy street in Highland Falls. "They're calling this a '1,000 year event.'"
As of Monday evening, several washed-out streets in Highland Falls remained impassable, leaving some residents stuck in their homes but otherwise OK, Police Chief Frank Basile said in a telephone interview. The village police station itself was full of mud and leaves after being flooded with about 5 inches of water, and a police car was swamped, Basile said.
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said there were reports of flooding in central and western Massachusetts and that state emergency management officials were in touch with local authorities.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was pounded with more than 8 inches of rain that sent debris sliding onto some roads and washed others out. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steven W. Gilland said recently arrived new cadets and others at the historic academy on the Hudson River were safe, but that assessing the damage will take time.
Atmospheric scientists say destructive flooding events across the globe have this in common: Storms are forming in a warmer atmosphere, making extreme rainfall a reality right now. The additional warming that scientists predict is coming will only make it worse.
The storm also interrupted air and rail travel. There were hundreds of flight cancellations at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports and more than 200 canceled at Boston's Logan Airport in the last 24 hours, according to the Flightaware website. Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott tweeted that swift water rescue teams had conducted more than 10 rescues on Monday.
Among the buildings flooded Monday was the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont, which had been performing "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" to sold-out audiences.
The Weston Theater Company's executive artistic director Susanna Gellert said the call was made at around 4 a.m. to evacuate 11 people associated with the production to higher ground and another 15 in nearby Ludlow. The three-floor playhouse, which had been damaged during Irene, was also flooded, with the dressing room and props room under water.
"As a theater, we were just starting to get back from the COVID shutdown," Gellert said. "To have this happen right now is painfully heartbreaking."