Trapped drivers swam out of their cars. A woman died after being swept away by floodwaters. What to know about the heavy rainfall hitting the Northeast

Intense rain and flash flooding that left at least one dead in southeastern New York continued to pelt the Northeast on Monday, forcing residents from their homes and prompting road closures and water rescues.

Over 9 million people are under flood alerts across the Northeast on Monday, including parts of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine – as well as across the country in Washington and Alaska. Flash flood emergencies and landslides are expected, with heavy rainfall expected throughout the day.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency warning for central Vermont on Monday, where 19 people have been rescued by boat and 25 others have been evacuated, Vermont’s Urban Search and Rescue team coordinator Mike Cannon told reporters.

Two areas in the state, Weston and South Londonderry, are currently inaccessible due to flooding, and search and rescue teams are working to regain access and perform welfare checks, Cannon said.

Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency Sunday as the weather service warned flash flooding could become “extremely dangerous.”

“My friends, this is the new normal,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said, addressing the havoc that the storm is wreaking in the state, where more than 8 inches of rain fell within a 24 hour period in some locations in the state.

A 35-year-old woman died Sunday, swept away by floodwater as she tried to evacuate her Orange County home. The flooding has caused “easily tens of millions of dollars in damage,” county Executive Steve Neuhaus said Monday.

Many residents who tried to drive out of the area, which includes the US Military Academy at West Point, were trapped Sunday, Neuhaus said. “We saw many cars that tried to go for it through the water, didn’t make it, and got stuck,” he said, adding that he saw “active duty Army soldiers up to their bellies … we were walking to cars to make sure people got out.”

In western New York’s Ontario County, door-to-door checks were conducted at about 120 homes, which prompted the voluntary evacuation of more than a dozen individuals and five pets, according to Hochul. Officials in the area have set up a temporary shelter.

Hochul said FEMA and White House officials have offered to assist with the response.

“While the storm has already passed through the southern part of New York, conditions remain dangerous in further north where there are ongoing extreme weather conditions. I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant, monitor local forecasts and have an evacuation plan ready if you’re in a danger zone,” Hochul said.

Once-in-a-millennium rainfall

A once-in-a-millennium rainfall event is one that is so intense, the chances of it happening in any given year is just 0.1%.

Reading, Pennsylvania, received 5.35 inches of rain Sunday, shattering its old daily rainfall record of 3.47 inches, set in 1952.

Areas across New England could see 3 to 5 inches of rain Monday, which could bring rainfall totals for this storm up to 12 inches.

A moderate risk, Level 3 of 4, of excessive rainfall is in place in New England through early Tuesday. Rainfall totals across the area are expected to range from 3 to 5 inches.

New York could see 1 to 2 inches of rain per hour on Monday, the NWS warned.

Rescuers cannot reach them due to several road closures, Phelan said, and officials are advising those residents over the phone to get to the highest ground they can in their homes.

Most of the town’s roads are impassable and Londonderry is cut off from the rest of the state, according to Phelan. “It’s the worst we’ve seen in many, many years,” Phelan said.

Numerous rivers across Vermont have been rising as a result of the heavy rainfall, with some rising more than they have since Hurricane Irene in 2011. The rainfall could push isolated storm totals towards 12 inches when combined with rainfall from the weekend, according to the weather service.

The city of Montpelier is expecting major flooding downtown and the Barre Auditorium has been opened as a shelter. The Winooski River at Montpelier has risen more than 8 feet in 10 hours, nearing 14 feet in elevation, and is expected to rise another 5 or more feet by Tuesday morning, according to projections from NWS’ Northeast River Forecast Center.

The White River in West Hartford has similarly risen 10 feet in 10 hours since Monday morning and is expected to crest above 20 feet for the first time since Irene in 2011.

Nearly a dozen different locations across Vermont from the Connecticut River in the south to the Missisquoi River in the north will experience moderate or major flooding before river levels begin dropping Tuesday.

Officials have made 50 rescues across the state, including using boats to help people trapped in their homes or in cars that were swept away in fast-moving waters.

Windham and Windsor County have been the worst hit by the flooding, according to Cannon, from the state’s Urban Search and Rescue Program.

In a Monday Facebook post, Scott said the state was enacting an “all-hands-on-deck” response to the extreme flooding. “We have not seen rainfall like this since Irene, and in some places, it will surpass even that,” the governor said.

In New York, six counties are under a state of emergency and state officials are scrutinizing roads and bridges to ensure they’re not “structurally compromised,” Gov. Hochul said at a Monday news conference.

New York City’s Emergency Management Department cautioned residents living in basement apartments “to be prepared to move to higher ground.” Heavy rains continuing through Monday morning “may cause rapid flooding to basements with little to no notice and can be life threatening,” an alert from the agency sent Sunday afternoon reads.

When torrential rain from Hurricane Ida caused flooding in New York City in 2021, most of the homes where residents were found dead were illegally converted basement or cellar apartments, city officials said.

“Do not underestimate the power of fast-moving water,” Hochul said. “Two feet of fast-moving flood water will float your car, and water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.”

Trapped drivers had to swim out of their cars

Ten people were rescued from a campground in Andover, Vermont when a bridge at Horseshoe Acres Campground was washed out, leaving campers trapped, said Jeannette Haight, the town clerk and treasurer.

In the same county, the town of Cornwall issued a “No travel Advisory” Sunday after storms flooded multiple roads, triggered mudslides and forced rescues from stranded cars. In nearby Rockland County, state police also reported “numerous motorists stranded” due to flooding in the area.

Over 150 water related call including dozens of water rescues. Currently state fire, Monroe county water rescue, Ontario county water rescue and several other agencies are assisting.

— Canandaigua Fire (@IAFF2098) July 10, 2023

Firefighters in Canandaigua in Ontario County, New York, received over 150 water related calls and performed dozens of rescues, Canandaigua Fire officials tweeted Sunday, sharing a photo of people kayaking through deluged streets.

Eastern Pennsylvania also saw “significant” flash flooding Sunday afternoon, according to the weather service. The Fleetwood Police Department shared images of deluged roadways in Berks County and urged residents to avoid all travel, adding that crews were out responding to rescues and flooded basements Sunday.

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