Spring thaw has city on flood watch
By Amy Ash Nixon
Staff Writer | April 08,2014
MONTPELIER — With the spring thaw happening now, rivers converging in the Capital City are expected to rise a few feet in the next 24 hours but are not expected to reach a level that will result in flooding, Fire Chief Robert Gowans said Monday.
“I don’t think we’re going to have any flooding,” Gowans said. “The river is all open in Montpelier. The North Branch and the Winooski opened up on Friday. There are little pockets of ice along the North Branch, but the Winooski is ice-free. The National Weather Service is projecting that the Winooski, at the cemetery curve where we have a gauge, will hit 9.3 feet at around 1 a.m. on Wednesday and then start receding.”
Gowans said that “flooding doesn’t occur down there until around 15 feet, but we have this ‘action’ stage at 11 feet. When it gets to 11 feet, that’s when we start notifying local businesses and things like that.”
As of 2 p.m. Monday, Gowans said, it was at 5.42 feet.
While it does not appear Montpelier will get hit this year, Gowans said monitoring will be very close the next few days by city officials, including fire and police and the Department of Public Works.
“Those projections could be off by a little bit. If we get more melting than is expected, that’s the issue,” he said of the expected rise through early Wednesday morning. “A lot of rain and melting” are what is driving the level, he said. “I know they’re talking about some flooding in some areas. There are still some rivers that still have ice on them in some parts of the state, but right now, we’re not anticipating anything.”
Gowans said police would be checking river levels periodically during patrols and Fire Department lieutenants will monitor the river gauges online, and “then if it looks like it’s starting to rise, they’ll go out and do physical observations. We’ll have the police doing physical observations” as well.
Public Works Director Todd Law said the city has more “tools in the toolbox” with flood monitoring, including getting advice and information from local and regional experts such as the National Weather Service, Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Emergency Management and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Law, in an email earlier, said, “We continue to hope for great sugaring weather. If we can get moderately warm days and cooler nights to slowly melt off the snowpack, it makes the sap flow and allows our channels and river to accommodate the flows.”
Law said Monday that in addition to snow melt and rain, “the only other concern is if we get a lot of runoff.”
“There could possibly be some localized flooding,” he said, but overall it looks as if Montpelier should be escaping this spring without any serious flooding threat.
Police Chief Tony Facos said Monday, “Part of our job is to monitor all potential hazards that could affect the city, from weather-related events to criminal activity.”