Barre, Montpelier underwater – expected rain could overwhelm upstream dam

Barre, last night. Parking lot of a downtown motel in foreground, Rte. 302/62 intersection in background. Tim Page photo

By Guy Page

As of 11 AM today, the good news about the ongoing Flood of July 2023 is that the sun is shining and there are no reported deaths or injuries.

The bad news is that more rain is expected Thursday and Friday. And regions already the hardest hit – Barre Montpelier and northwestern Windham County – could suffer far worse flooding if surging waters overwhelm upstream dams, Gov. Phil Scott reported in a press briefing late this morning. 

The downtown streets of Barre, Montpelier, and Waterbury – all large communities located in the Winooski River basin –  are underwater as of late morning today. Rte. 302, the busy residential/commercial strip running through Montpelier, Berlin and Barre, also was inundated. 

Barre – power was out all night, until 8 AM, and Main Street stores were flooded out and remain closed, according to eyewitness reports. A few vehicles are reported moving on the streets as of late morning. Rescue boats were seen moving between buildings at night. Parking lots have mud about eight inches deep. 

Some Good Samaritans – like Brian Judd in the Academy Street neighborhood – scouted out the area and then stood outside offering drivers information on road conditions. Such assistance is in line with this morning’s plea from Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison: “Focus your volunteer effort at the hyperlocal level. Check on neighbors. “Please do not self-deploy. Please do not become someone in need of rescue.”

Berlin – Many of the town’s mobile home parks situated near the Dog and Stevens Brook rivers were evacuated ahead of the rising waters. Some neighborhoods (including VDC’s) were cut off from vehicular traffic. Traffic can be heard on Rte. 302. Gov. Scott found “the roads around my house [near Berlin Pond] were completely impassable this morning. Grateful for the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers trail network, which I was able to hike through to get to an open road and on to our emergency response center,” he reported on a Facebook post. 

Waterbury – the state’s Emergency Operations Center in the Waterbury state office complex was closed due to lack of access. 

Montpelier – the streets of the downtown district, including State and Main Streets, is underwater (see photos in today’s VDC). But of particular concern is the Wrightsville Dam, located three miles north of downtown. 

Yesterday, authorities expressed concern that the water levels were just six feet below the level requiring a controlled release through the floodgates – an act of utmost necessity that would quickly, greatly worsen flooding downstream. That immediate threat appears to have passed.

“It appears at this point in time we’ll be able to work our way through that without opening up the gates,” Scott said. 
It’s what might happen during and after the expected rains Thursday and Friday that have authorities “monitoring and modeling” Wrightsville and other dams.

“We have had 48 hours of steady rain,” Scott explained. “Four times the amount of rain [of Storm Irene in 2011]. We had rain previous to that. The ground was already saturated. That’s why I’m very concerned about the next few days. We’ll have the sun out this afternoon. More rain on Thursday and Friday. Depending on the intensity of that rain, it will be in our rivers, and upstream in our reservoirs,” Scott said. 

The dam is located on the North Branch of the Winooski River, according to

The project provides flood protection primarily to Montpelier. In conjunction with East Barre Dam and Waterbury Reservoir, the project also reduces flood damage in other downstream communities, including Middlesex and Waterbury on the Winooski River, the website said. Construction of the project began in August 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and was completed in October 1935. The project consists of an earthfill dam with stone slope protection 1,525 feet long and 115 feet high.

Ever since the heavy rain began this weekend, state, local, and federal rescue workers – plus crews from neighboring, less-affected states – have been busy with search and rescue efforts. 

As of 11 AM this morning, more than 100 rescue missions have been executed, delivering to safety almost two hundred people and 17 animals stuck in buildings and cars. Five National Guard helicopters are performing search and rescue in locations where the rescue boats and land vehicles are unable to penetrate. Two of the ‘copters have winch-powered hoists, the other three require a landing zone. State police are searching for people with their fleet of unmanned drones. 

Closed Roads – there’s also good news and bad about road closures. I-89 at Montpelier has been reopened. Water sluicing off the cliffs near Exit 8 forced its closure, but it’s open now. Major road closures as of 11 AM: Rte. 2 in Marshfield, Rte. 4 Rutland, Rte. 7 Middlebury, and Rte. 15 in Cambridge (the famous ‘Wrong Way Bridge’), Johnson and Wolcott; and Hospital Hill in Berlin.

Statewide, the closures are fairly evenly distributed, Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn: in the Southeastern transportation district, 17; Central, 20, Northeastern, 18; Northwestern, 14; Southwestern, 9. Check New England 511 for specific road closure info.

The Agency of Transportation has closed the State rail trails due to flooding and potential hazards on the trails, including the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, Delaware & Hudson Rail Trail, and Beebe Spur Rail Trail.

Shelters – Three statewide shelters are open: Statewide shelters: Barre Auditorium, Rutland High School, and Hartford High School. Call VT 211 for local shelter instructions.

Scott said he’s resisting the urge to climb into a state aerial vehicle and survey the damage statewide – for now. He wants to give the professionals room to work. “I don’t want to be part of the problem, right?”

Vernon, in the southwesternmost corner of the state, got lots of rain but no flooding, resident Nancy Gassett reported.

Parts of Orange County also suffered flooding, according to resident and former award-winning reporter Allison Teague. 

  • Rte 14, Williamstown Gulf – road closed due to flooding and land and tree slides.
  • South, in the East Valley, at least three bridges across Sunset Brook are washed out and people stranded.
  • In E. Randolph, campers and houses are flooded with emergency services on the scene pumping water.

“I am safe. The beaver dam broke sometime last night, and the nature reserve bridge is somewhere… between here and theah!,” Teague wrote to VDC this morning. “If we hadn’t killed all the beavers, straightened out the waterways, and paved everything… we would sail right through this!”

“Hope you are safe,” Teague added. “There was a reason settlers built on the ridges, by gar!”

Categories: Weather

5 replies »

  1. I have no sympathy at all for these libtard controlled places who pave over everything with no regard for nature or proper drainage. People too interested in their communist agendas and pronouns to engage in useful civil engineering and storm/drainage maintenance.

  2. The wrath of our Lord now comes down on the Capital those who have worked to enact Beelzebub’s agenda – drag queen story hours, solar profiteering, election of frauds to Congress, cover ups of EB 5 malfeasance, enrichment from lobbyist fees, weed lobbyists and entrepeneurs. Ye shall reap what ye hath sewn.

  3. Many streets in Barre City and likely all around the town are impacted. There are many road hazards, debris, new deep potholes, sewer covers damaged etc. The communications from authorities and local media is very disappointing (VDC the exception of course!) The New York Times, Boston Globe and YouTubers are providing more information and coverage. Sad and telling at the same time! Shout out to whomever crafted a road closed sign out of cardboard for West Patterson Street…looks like something blew out at the top and fell all to the bottom of the street.
    Big mess in Barre – literally, not the normal figuratively. Thanks to the responders and to the hardest workers who are fixing the roads!

  4. Good ole infrastructure tax payer dollars, just pissed away! Have ya seen the potholes? Yet, the government wants you to believe they can “fix” “global warming”? Wake the F up people!