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Heavy rains and flooding prompt rescues, evacuations and emergency warnings

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New England and parts of New York are drenched after heavy rains and flash flooding. At least one person has died.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

And Vermont is one of the hardest hit states. Rivers there threatened to overflow their banks, flooding towns, closing roads and forcing evacuations. In some parts of the state, trapped drivers had to swim out of their floating, swirling cars. And President Biden issued an emergency declaration to release federal aid.

MARTIN: Vermont Public's Liam Elder-Connors is with us now with an update on the latest. Good morning.

LIAM ELDER-CONNORS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So I understand that you're in Burlington, which is in the northwestern part of the state. What's the situation there?

ELDER-CONNORS: Well, it's still raining. And parts of the state are still under a flood warning this morning. There have been evacuations across the state. Nearly a dozen emergency shelters were set up yesterday. And as of last night, there were more than 50 water rescues made by emergency crews. And a big concern is that things are potentially going to get worse. Several major rivers were expected to crest overnight and early this morning. And officials are monitoring several dams that might overflow, including one near Vermont's capital, Montpelier.

MARTIN: So how unusual is this amount of rain? And you've been giving us a sense of this, but how destructive has it been so far?

ELDER-CONNORS: Well, we've seen lots of road closures. Flooding has been bad in downtown Montpelier especially. And the last time we saw anything similar to this was more than a decade ago. Tropical Storm Irene brought 11 inches of rain in 24 hours. Now, we're still waiting for the totals of this storm. But this storm has been lingering, which concerns safety officials. I talked to Moretown fire chief Stefan Pratt, and he told me he's worried about these conditions.

STEFAN PRATT: It looks like it's going to stay at that crest mark in major flooding for approximately 12 hours. Whereas Irene, it came up and then it went back down, we're going to be at, you know, 12 hours of it staying high, which is, you know, very dangerous.

ELDER-CONNORS: So I visited Moretown yesterday afternoon. That's a small town in central Vermont of just over 1,700 people. And like many small towns in Vermont, a river runs through it. In fact, there's a river that runs along the winding road that leads to that town, which is also pretty common in Vermont. And while I was driving there, water was lapping along the banks. And in Moretown, they're preparing to evacuate about 30 homes if the river rose. And the water was rising pretty fast. While I was out reporting, in about an hour or so on my drive home, one of the roads that I had passed by closed down due to the river flooding over its banks. So the conditions have been changing pretty quickly.

MARTIN: Wow, so that's a lot to manage. So before we let you go, Liam, what's the forecast for the next couple of days?

ELDER-CONNORS: Well, the rain is expected to end today. Though, there is the potential for more rain later in the week, which has forecasters concerned about more localized flash flooding. In addition to Vermont, though, the storms hit other New England states like Massachusetts and Connecticut. Like we mentioned earlier, New York's been hit pretty bad in the northern part of the state, with widespread flooding in the Mid-Hudson and Finger Lake regions. Officials in Vermont are hoping things are going to dry out over the next couple of days so we can assess the damage. And then, of course, the cleanup will begin.

MARTIN: That's Vermont public reporter Liam Elder-Connors. Liam, thank you so much for this reporting.

ELDER-CONNORS: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered and host of the Consider This Saturday podcast, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Liam Elder-Connors