Flooded Vermont eyes aid

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BARRE, Vt. (AP) – Floodwaters and mud gave way to brooms, shovels and swirling dust Thursday as city crews and homeowners began the task of cleaning up after flash floods, scraping mud and debris from roads, driveways and parking lots.

“I’ve been here since 5 o’clock,” said Kevin Major, owner of Fat Backs Property Management, pushing water and mud with a long-handled squeegee outside Mister Z’s restaurant Thursday morning.

The state is expected to seek a federal disaster declaration to help pay for cleanup. Mayor Thomas Lauzon, who flew over the area with Vermont Emergency Management director Barbara Farr and later gave Gov. Jim Douglas an up-close look, estimated the damage at $500,000 in Barre City alone.

Firefighters worked through the night Wednesday hosing mud from streets, and a small backhoe cleared a mud layer from a parking lot Thursday while a street sweeping truck made several passes through the city.

At Dente’s Market, the cars of passing motorists who drove through floodwaters pushed water through the door, according to owner Rick Dente, 51.

It was a foot deep inside at the height of the flooding Wednesday, he said.

“It was a tidal wave effect,” said Dente. Damage was limited because employees, relatives and a few customers had helped remove food and magazines from bottom shelves before the water peaked, Dente said.

Dente, who has been through three other floods in the 35 years he’s owned the store, said Wednesday’s flash flooding was different. This time, the Stevens Branch of the Winooski River overflowed its banks behind the building, sending water in from behind as well as in front.

“It was a good four-hour window of high water and nervousness … it kept raining,” said Dente.

He called it a day at 2:45 a.m., as firefighters cleaned streets, returning at 5:45 a.m to open for business. By midday Thursday, he had closed the door to the store to keep out dust that rose from streets as the mud dried.

Parts of Route 302, a major artery between Barre and Montpelier, reopened Thursday after being washed out, but it will be days before it is entirely open, Lauzon said.

The National Weather Service estimated between 3 and 4 inches fell in the area Wednesday.

By Thursday morning, rain totals reached 5.2 inches in Bethel, 4.9 Randolph, 4.7 in North Calais and 4 in Brookfield, 3.3 in Waitsfield and 3.2 in Worcester.

In addition to cleanup, the main item on the city’s agenda was assessing the damage left behind to roads, bridges and culverts.

“We’ll be in the assessment phase through Monday,” said Lauzon. “Our focus now is making sure folks are safe and getting them back in their homes.”

AP-ES-07-12-07 1732EDT

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