BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (CN) – An entire block of businesses was digging out from floodwaters Monday after Hurricane Irene drowned Flat Street in Vermont’s seventh-largest town. More than 260 roads and dozens of bridges were closed across the state by Vermont’s worst floods since the epic year of 1927.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, a native of Brattleboro, visited businesses on Flat Street this morning with Sen. Patrick Leahy. The ground floor of the Latchis Hotel, Theater and restaurant, a landmark building at the corner of Flat Street and Main, suffered damage, as did all businesses along Flat Street, including the New England Youth Theater, the Boys and Girls Club, a popular brew pub, an Indian import store, and Sam’s, the area’s biggest outdoor outfitter.
Ground floors of the businesses were covered with a thin layer of mud. The businesses’ basements were full of water; millions of dollars of stock was ruined and the musty smell foretold months of rehab ahead.
Flood damage was even worse in northern Vermont, where the Winooski River rose to levels not reached since 1927.
Hurricane Irene snuck up on Brattleboro. There were no vicious winds; rain began at 7 p.m. Sunday and continued without cease for 23 hours, when the sun broke through.
The center of the storm did not track the Connecticut River, which separates Vermont from New Hampshire, as was predicted, but hugged the Green Mountains along the New York border. As a result, the major flooding began after the hurricane appeared to have passed, and continued today (Monday), after the entire state was drowned by 6 to 12 inches of rain.
Thousands remained without power Monday and President Obama declared the state a disaster area.
Whetstone Brook leapt its banks and drowned Flat Street. Upstream in Wilmington, a mountain town in ski country, water was chest deep and worse, and roads all over the area were closed.
There are few flat areas in Vermont, and roads tend to follow rivers, most or all of which flooded Sunday.
The floods eroded shoulders and entire roads. State police blocked bridges on major highways and local police and volunteers directed motorists through detours.
South of Brattleboro in Green River, road crews backed and filled the dirt road. The Green River, usually a babbling little brook, was a wide, muddy torrent.
A girl surveying the damage from an ATV said that if the water had risen a few inches more on the creek along Jelly Mill Hill, they would have lost their house.
The creek on Jelly Mill Hill is a babbling little brook that feeds the Green River, which feeds the Connecticut.
“Down in Massachusetts the road’s all wiped out,” the girl said.