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Capital region assesses flood damage

MONTPELIER-For many central Vermont residents, Friday, May 27, 2011, is a date that will live in infamy.

As if flooding in the Champlain Valley region earlier in the month wasn't enough to test the resolve of local residents, last Friday's violent thunderstorms in the state's capital region pushed some areas untouched by earlier spring flooding into crisis mode.

During the early morning hours of May 27, a series of powerful, tropical-like thunderstorms moved through Vermont's mid section. The ensuing heavy rain water, falling and accelerated downslope by steep, narrow mountain valley walls, created the flash flood emergency. The Winooski River and its feeder streams quickly reached flood levels.

Many owners of homes, farms and businesses in the greater Montpelier, Barre, Waterbury area-especially those in the Winooski River Valley-awoke May 27 to rising water and evacuations.

In the capital city of Montpelier, the municipal wastewater treatment plant was flooded and pollutants escaped into floodwater May 27. Montpelier officials asked residents and those working in the city to practice "extreme water conservation" by avoiding drinking tap water.

State officials also issued warnings to minimize contact with floodwater because of pollutants from the wastewater plant as well as fuels and fertilizers that entered waterways during the flood.

On May 27, state offices in Caledonia, Orange, and Washington counties were closed; many reopened last week.

On June 2, over 160 flood victims who had just experienced the worst Memorial Day holiday weekend in their memories, gathered at the Barre Auditorium. The survivors were there to learn what assistance was available in order to find new, dry shelter. Vermont Emergency Management and American Red Cross officials were on hand to help and collect names. Fortunately, no flood-related deaths were reported at press time.

According to Mark Bosma, spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management, "state employees who were affected by the reduced workforce status during this period, did so without loss of pay or benefits. All employees designated as essential personnel for reduced workforce situations including Corrections, Public Safety, Institutions and Transportation Maintenance reported for work as normally expected."

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