By LISA RATHKE and JOHN MINCHILLO
ANDOVER, Vt. (AP) — Rescue teams raced into Vermont on Monday after heavy rain drenched parts of the Northeast, washing out roads, forcing evacuations and halting some airline travel. One person was killed in New York as she was trying to leave her home.
Mike Cannon of Vermont Urban Search and Rescue said crews from North Carolina, Michigan and Connecticut were among those helping to get to towns that have been unreachable since torrents of rain belted the state overnight. The towns of Londonderry and Weston were inaccessible, Cannon said, and rescuers were heading there to do welfare checks. Water levels at several dams were being closely monitored.
There have been no reports of injuries or deaths related to the flooding in Vermont, according to state emergency officials. Roads were closed across the state, including many along the spine of the Green Mountains.
Some people canoed their way to the Cavendish Baptist Church in Vermont, which had turned into a shelter. About 30 people waited it out, some of them making cookies for firefighters who were working to evacuate and rescue others.
“People are doing OK. It’s just stressful,” shelter volunteer Amanda Gross said.
Vermont Rep. Kelly Pajala said she and about half dozen others had to evacuate early Monday from a four-unit apartment building on the West River in Londonderry.
“The river was at our doorstep,” said Pajala. “We threw some dry clothes and our cats into the car and drove to higher ground.”
The slow-moving storm reached New England in the morning after hitting parts of New York and Connecticut on Sunday. Additional downpours in the region Monday raised the potential for flash flooding.
One of the worst hit places was New York’s Hudson Valley, where rescuers found the body of a woman in her 30s whose home was surrounded by water. The force of the flash flooding dislodged boulders, which rammed into the woman’s house and damaged part of its wall, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told The Associated Press. Two other people escaped.
“She was trying to get through (the flooding) with her dog,” Neuhaus said, “and she was overwhelmed by tidal wave-type waves.”
He said many roads and bridges were washed out. Officials believed everyone was accounted for, but they were trying to reach people to make sure they were OK.
Officials say the storm has already wrought tens of millions of dollars in damage. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference Monday that the storm sent “cars swirling in our streets” and dumped a “historic” amount of rain.
“Nine inches of rain in this community,” Hochul said during a briefing on a muddy street in Highland Falls. “They’re calling this a ‘1,000 year event.'”
“It seems like the worst has passed in terms of the volume coming down. But now our job is to make sure that the roads and the bridges are passable,” Hochul said at second briefing in a hard-hit section of the Finger Lakes.
Still, the governor said she was expanding the state of emergency to cover other areas of the state.
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said there have been reports of flooding in central and western Massachusetts and state emergency management officials have been in touch with local authorities.
“Right now things are under control, though the water is still accumulating so we’re going to continue to watch that through the afternoon and the evening,” she said.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point was pounded with more than 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) of rain that sent debris sliding onto some roads and washed others out. Superintendent Lt. Gen. Steven W. Gilland said the recently arrived new cadets and others at the historic academy on the Hudson River were safe, but that assessing the damage will take time.
Atmospheric scientists say destructive flooding events across the globe have this in common: Storms are forming in a warmer atmosphere, making extreme rainfall a reality right now. The additional warming that scientists predict is coming will only make it worse.
The storm also interrupted air and rail travel. There were hundreds of flight cancellations at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports and more than 200 canceled at Boston’s Logan Airport in the last 24 hours, according to the Flightaware website. Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott described the race to rescue flooding victims as “an all-hands-on-deck response” at a Monday press conference. Swift water rescue teams had conducted more than 10 rescues on Monday, the governor later tweeted.
“We have not seen rainfall like this since Irene, and in some places, it will surpass even that,” he said.
Scott was referring to Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, when the state got 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours. Irene killed six in the state, washed homes off their foundations and damaged or destroyed more than 200 bridges and 500 miles (805 kilometers) of highway.
Among the buildings flooded Monday was the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont, which had been performing “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” to sold-out audiences.
The Weston Theater Company’s executive artistic director Susanna Gellert said the call was made at around 4 a.m. to evacuate 11 people associated with the production to higher ground and another 15 in nearby Ludlow. The three-floor playhouse, which had been damaged during Irene, was also flooded, with the dressing room and props room under water.
“As a theater, we were just starting to get back from the COVID shutdown,” Gellert said. “To have this happen right now is painfully heartbreaking.”
Cara Philbin, 37, of Ludlow, Vermont, was awakened by a neighbor early Monday and told to clear out of her second-floor apartment because the parking lot was already flooded.
“He told me me, ‘You need to get out of here … your car is going to float away, and I suggest you do not stay,'” said Philbin. The neighbor took her car keys and moved her car to a higher spot, while she called her parents and then drove to their home to ride out the storm, she said.
Ross Andrews and his wife were driving back home to Calais, Vermont, on Monday when he saw trucks parked at a 230-year-old dam with crews trying to keep it from failing. There were trees down everywhere.
“The interstate was closed right at our exit. Our road was closed right at our driveway. We managed to thread our way back just in the nick of time,” he said.