News, Walden

FEMA Funding for Further Flooding Fixes in Walden, other Towns Sought

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WALDEN – The state has requested a damage assessment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after significant flooding occurred in Lamoille county and the Northeast Kingdom region on June 23.

photo courtesy Debbie Messier, Walden Town Offices.
Cabot Road in Walden was badly damaged in flooding on June 23.

“The storm trained on pockets of the state, resulting in severe damage to roads and other public infrastructure in the impacted communities,” Vermont Emergency Management Director Eric Forand said in a press release issued Monday. 

The state’s assessment indicates that associated damages could amount to more than $1.5 million, according to the release. This figure is just the beginning, according to Mark Bosma, a spokesperson for Vermont Emergency Management. 

“We just have a preliminary number, and that gets (FEMA) here,” he said.

He said the most affected towns had been Stowe and Walden, though there have been reports of damage elsewhere.

On June 23, the National Weather service placed the entire state under a tornado watch. Harry Shepard, Stowe’s public works director, called the localized, intense storm that hit his area a microburst.

It took until the night of June 25 to restore basic access to homes and emergency services, according to Shepard. Even now, repairs are far from over. 

“Frankly, I think it’s going to be another month or two,” he said.

Once the roads were patched up, deeper structural harm remained in some areas. Two expensive large-diameter culverts, crucial to managing runoff, have been damaged as well. Replacing the affected areas may mean constructing several small bridges where the culverts once were, Shepard said.

All told, it could cost millions, he said.

Shepard said the town’s stormwater infrastructure is extremely vulnerable right now. “When you’re worried about heavy rain,” he said, “it’s stressful.” He’s relieved that the additional rain on June 29 didn’t do more damage.

But for Shepard, the next flooding disaster never seems far away. “It absolutely appears to be happening more frequently,” he said.

Last July, historic flooding across the state caused severe damage in many Vermont communities. December saw another round of damaging floods caused by rain and snowmelt.

Debbie Messier, the town clerk in Walden, said the town was still feeling the effects of previous disasters. “We were still trying to play catch-up from last year,” she said.

Walden only regained full access to its roads on Monday. Several were completely washed out, and multiple culverts needed replacing. Walden’s two-person repair crew and hired reinforcements have been working intensely, according to Messier. 

Messier only had a rough sense of what the repairs will cost. “Nothing compared to last July, but it’s definitely enough,” she said.

Elsewhere in the state, other isolated damage occurred. Elaine Cashin, the town clerk in Westmore, confirmed that a small landslide occurred by Route 5A on June 23 as a result of the storm. 

FEMA officials will arrive to inspect various sites from this most recent report on July 8, according to Bosma. If a major disaster is declared based on that assessment, 75% of the cost to qualifying areas would be covered federally, according to Vermont Emergency Management.

The state plans to modify its estimates of the severity of the damage as it receives more information. “We need towns to report damage to us,” Bosma said.

Theo Wells-Spackman, VTDigger

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