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Living with high water

"The torrential rains began on Nov. 3, 1927," according to Carnahan. "It was the greatest disaster in the history of the state. It wiped out a lot of infrastaructure, especially bridges. Nine inches of rain fell in a 36-hour period and horrendous flooding began."

While the Otter Creek broke all flood records in 1927, so, too, did most streams through out New England.

Though all of New England was affected, Vermont was devastated, according to Historical Society records. From Newport to Bennington, towns were under water. As many as 85 people perished and at least 9,000 went homeless. Roads, rails, and over 1,000 bridges were washed away.

Carnahan said the '27 flood still permeates the state's collective memory. Downtown Montpelier still worries about ice dams and downtown flooding, he noted.

"But flood dangers are more isolated today," he added. "It doesn't have the widespread impact that it did a century ago. Lost railroad tracks don't affect as many people today."

The great Flood of 1927 turned the fiercely independent state to looking to the federal government for help. While the Flood of 1927 spurred levee building and dredging statewide, in an ironic twist, those efforts helped contribute to wider floods during the 1936 and 1938 floods.

"A river constrained by structures adjusts by incising, or digging down into the landscape, adding speed and power to the stream," according to Blitstein. But now the Otter Creek flows long and free, unobstructed for most of its long trace. And like the refrain of the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein "Show Boat"song that celebrates America's great rivers-that ol' Otter Creek, it just keeps rolling along.

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