RICHFORD – As flood waters receded around Franklin County and major roads began reopening, Gov. Phil Scott followed Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) to Richford Saturday, where flood waters had washed the roadbed out from under Route 105 and closed the highway.
On Saturday afternoon, the washed-out segment of Route 105 was the last state highway closure in Franklin County, where, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), record-level flooding from storms Thursday night had swelled the Lamoille and Missisquoi rivers and closed roads and highways around the county.
Scott’s visit Saturday was a stop on a larger tour of damage in Franklin County that, according to Scott and a preceding press notice, brought Scott around damaged areas in Lamoille and Franklin counties.
By the time he met with reporters in Richford, Scott said he’d already come through parts of Lamoille County, as well as Montgomery and East Berkshire, where flooding from the Missisquoi and Trout rivers had closed the towns’ primary arterial roads and left notable damage near the banks of those rivers.
“We’re reliving a small portion of other events,” Scott told reporters. “It brings back memories of Irene in some respects, but not as significant – not as widespread – as Irene. It’s just a vision of how quick things can happen and how quick and powerful the water is.”
According to NWS, Thursday’s heavy storms had swept through much of Vermont, bringing heavy rainfall to the northwest and heavy winds to the south.
Data shared by NWS on social media showed the Missisquoi River had swelled to record levels close to its headwaters in North Troy, and VTrans reported highway closures in many of the towns tracing the Missisquoi through Franklin County, including Richford, Berkshire, Enosburgh and Sheldon.
In Montgomery, flooding around the Trout River also temporarily closed highways and left noticeable damage behind, including visible damage to the town’s park and its community gardens, and road closures were also reported by state and local officials in Bakersfield, Fairfield, Fairfax, Fletcher and Georgia.
Green Mountain Power reported tens of thousands in Vermont had been left without power over the course of Thursday’s and Friday’s storms, with 4,100 of those outages reported in Franklin County. As of press time, GMP’s outage map reported there were no longer any outages within Franklin County.
An update provided on GMP’s social media pages reported that, as of noon Sunday, 5,400 customers remained without power in Vermont after crews were brought in from out of state to repair damage from Thursday’s storms.
VEM announced late Friday that, while emergency crews were deployed and there was at least one known vehicle rescue, there were no known fatalities or serious injuries resulting from floods.
Emergency shelters were opened at the St. Albans Town Educational Center and in Newport and Belvidere.
Scott said the state was only starting to assess the damage when he spoke with reporters Saturday, but that there was “about $1.4 million thus far – and growing – in FEMA damage and… about $1.2 million in Federal Highway grant emergency relief that we can assess of damage thus far, and that’s growing as well.”
VTrans officials told reporters Saturday that a temporary bridge set to span Route 105 near Magoon Road in Richford would likely be finished Sunday night and the road reopened Monday, though Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn warned “there’s a lot of factors that come into play.”
According to Kyle Carpenter, VTrans’s area maintenance supervisor, the washed-out roadbed in Richford was “one of the more extreme cases” of damage incurred from last week’s storms.
The temporary bridge would be a two-lane road and extend 120 feet over Route 105, stretching past banks that had been destabilized by last week’s storms, and would stay in place until VTrans had a new bridge designed and ready for installation.
As Route 105 is a state highway, that bridge project would fall under VTrans’s purview, rather than the Town of Richford.
A timeline for a permanent replacement was unknown, according to Carpenter.