The student news site of Harwood Union Middle/High School in South Duxbury, Vermont

Common Ground

The student news site of Harwood Union Middle/High School in South Duxbury, Vermont

Common Ground

The student news site of Harwood Union Middle/High School in South Duxbury, Vermont

Common Ground

The Catastrophic Flood of July 2023 and Our Harwood Community

Photo Credit: Crow Fitzpatrick
A photo of Downtown Montpelier taken July 10th 2023

Summer in Vermont is typically a beautiful time of year, but this year was different. Prolonged heavy rainfall throughout the summer led to catastrophic flooding across Vermont and a very wet summer. 

In July of 2023, our home state endured extensive flooding. The flooding caused many roads and bridges to washout, and mudslides that wiped out many properties, homes, and farmlands. Washington and Lamoille counties were hit the hardest; with our community being in Washington County, we suffered some severe damage. 

According to the National Weather Service, many factors caused Vermont to flood. May and June of 2023 were very rainy months that saturated the ground. As a result, there was no more room for the ground to soak up July’s rain. 

According to the Washington Post, another possible reason for the flooding was that the Atlantic Ocean had been warmer than the average ocean temperatures. The warmer waters evaporated more moisture into the air which resulted in much heavier rainfall. 

 Vermont is vulnerable to floods due to its valleys and mountain towns. The steep terrain tends to funnel water. With that, the water piles up more and more and increases the risk of flooding and landslides. 

Our state capital Montpelier was one of the most damaged towns in the flood. According to Associated Press News, some saw this as the worst flood since the deadly flooding that happened in Vermont in 1927. The Winooski River that flows through Montpelier had two months’ worth of rain poured into it in just two days. 

This caused the river to overflow tremendously and gush into and fill the streets of downtown Montpelier with waist-high water. After the water receded, the town was riddled with damage, including destroyed shops, homes, and businesses. The community was left in shock. 

According to WCAX, as a result, many companies are taking action and preparing for any possible future floods. Some places are moving their shops completely and others are doing things to decrease their vulnerability to future natural disasters. 

Our local community also took a hard hit, with Waterbury having an estimated 40 houses and half a dozen businesses flooded. 

Waterbury resident and Harwood senior Josh McHugh says, “Our basement was filled to the brim. We were about an inch and a half away from our first floor being touched. Our electrical, heating, hot water, and things like that were all out of commission for about a week.” 

McHugh and his family endured major stress throughout the flood along with many other families. McHugh says, “Hours leading up to the actual flood, we were scared to death. We had water rising before our eyes, just kind of waiting for it to start to come over onto the street. And, as soon as we saw the water start to hit the street, we got out of there. Because we just couldn’t see our house go down. If it did, it would have been too much to see. So the stress levels were just about as high as they get.” 

Many local businesses were damaged or destroyed during the flood which was very devastating to our community. McHugh says, “I work right down the street from where I live at the Prohibition Pig, and my work also got flooded. So I was out of a job for two months, roughly.” In multiple ways, the flood impacted McHugh and his family. 

There has been a lot of work done in our community to return to normal, but there is still damage and things that need to be done. McHugh says, “Some small businesses still aren’t open. There are all sorts of spots that got hit badly and still need work done, people still need help. People still need donations and food. There are lots of things that still need to be done.” 

Last summer, the entire state of Vermont experienced a catastrophic natural disaster. The flooding made our need to be prepared for future disasters in our community clear. 

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