Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vermont's tragic flooding demonstrated the incredible power of water

Matt Sukowski in the Burlington Free Press (Vermont): Maybe the most searing image of the flood tragedy that struck Vermont a week ago was the video of the 140-year-old Lower Bartonsville Covered Bridge in southeastern Vermont washing away. The physical power of the torrent was stunning. The bridge sank, defeated but dignified, into the raging brown water like a captain going down with the ship.

The emotional power was just as striking. In the video, you hear Susan Hammond, the woman shooting the images, crying and swearing as the bridge collapsed. You can’t blame her. Vermont’s worst natural disaster since 1927 felt like a rock-hard sucker punch to the gut. Several days later, Hammond said the whole village of Lower Bartonsville, a section of Rockingham, remained stunned by the loss of the bridge. “It was devastating,” she said.

That Vermont’s usually scenic, tame waterways could rise up and kill people, shove buildings off their foundations, make miles of state highways disappear in a day and upend everyone’s sense of security is testimony to the extreme intensity of the floodwaters.

The volume of water racing down Vermont rivers and brooks boggles the mind. The peak flow along the White River in West Hartford was 100,000 cubic feet per second, said Andy Nash, head meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in South Burlington. That’s 500 times the normal flow of the White River — and equivalent to the normal volume in the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

“The fact it is approaching or maybe exceeding the ’27 flood in certain areas of the state is what startles me more than anything else,” said Barry Cahoon, a river management engineer with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation....

Swept away: the Bartonsville covered bridge in Rockingham, Vermont, shot by Sfoskett, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

1 comment:

biobluesboy said...

I believe it! Having seen what happened up close and personal, I'm a believer... It's clear to me that the 7-12 inches of rain delivered by Irene needed the pre-condition of already super saturated soil to deliver those volumes... along with the intense rainfall across a broad geographic area provided by a major tropical storm or hurricane like Irene. I think the combination of the record breaking rainfall in Vermont in the spring and early summer is the real culprit... and that we may be witnessing the real impacts of the change in rainfall patterns predicted for the US Northeast (more rain, and more frequent severe rainfall events) driven by global warming.

God help us all adapting to this!