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Severe Floods Hit Vermont


As Hurricane Irene passed through America's largest city Sunday causing perhaps less damage than many had expected, flooding has been widespread and devastating in Vermont. Emergency management officials began getting calls about “massive flooding”  before 9 a.m. Sunday. Hundreds of people were told to leave the capital, Montpelier, which could get flooded twice: once by Irene and once by a utility trying to save an overwhelmed dam. The Burlington Free Press, Vermont's most widely circulated newspaper, writes:

"Montpelier is bracing for 'a major emergency' of overnight flooding.

Throughout the state, a disaster is unfolding."

Gov. Peter Shumlin told residents "We can replace roads, we can replace bridges and buildings, we cannot replace people." WCAX News:

Mike O'Neil, the state emergency management director, said "This is the worst I've ever seen in Vermont."

The State Police Captain Ray Keefe told CNN that the storm has essentially shut down southern Vermont, while the rest of the state continues to face severe flooding.

"Despite being bordered on all sides by land, Vermonters north and south struggled with the impact of Hurricane Irene. Fast-moving floods swarmed towns from Brattleboro to Woodstock and beyond. The state was under a flash flood watch.

Montpelier, in the north, reported worsening conditions Sunday evening. Portions of the city were evacuated and people were told to stay off the roads.

Jill Remick, from the state's emergency management division, said waters in the area -- where multiple rivers converge -- could rise as high as 20 feet, above the 17.5 feet that led to substantial flooding in May in the state capital."

Vermont Public Radio reports on how the severe flooding has effected travel in the state, and in doing so, emergency response efforts:

"Floodwaters stretch from the Deerfield Valley into the Champlain Valley and now central Vermont.

People have been stranded and emergency crews have had difficulty reaching them because so many roads are washed out or flooded.

That even includes Interstate 91 between Rockingham and Westminster.

Many other major Vermont roads are closed. Route Nine is inaccessible from Brattleboro to Bennington. Routes 4 and 7 are closed in areas."

One Vermont blogger wrote that Sunday's flood will go down as the worst in the state since at least 1973, perhaps 1927.Water rescue teams responded to calls throughout the day Sunday, and the National Guard brought in high water trucks that were dispatched upstate.

The Burlington Free Press reports that there are 43,000 Vermont homes and businsses without power Sunday afternoon.

Police say a 25-year-old Vermont man died after driving his car off a state highway at a high rate of speed and landing in the Winooski River in East Montpelier. A 20-year-old woman was swept away in the Deerfield River in southern Vermont and is presumed dead, but a spokesman for the state’s Emergency Management Agency, Mark Bosma, told the Vancouver Sun that her death was still not confirmed.

VPR reports that the rain is expected to move out of Vermont to the Northeast by late Sunday, but officials say there will still be dangers from rainwater runoff.

"This is not over," President Barack Obama said from the Rose Garden this evening speaking of Hurricane Irene's aftermath.

At least 21 people have died so far in the storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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