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Rain-soaked Vermont put on new flood watch

By L. Finch
Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2011

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As a wary and waterlogged Vermont continued to clean up after Tropical Storm Irene washed away roads and destroyed homes last week, weather forecasters issued a flash-flood watch for the region yesterday ahead of showers and thunderstorms expected to drench the area.

The National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., issued the flash-flood watch for Vermont and northern New York beginning last night and lasting into tomorrow morning. A slow-moving cold front is expected to dump as much as 4 inches of rain in some areas, according to the agency.

In parts of the state still sodden from Irene, that could mean more flooding, said Jessica Neiles, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The ground is already very saturated, and the rivers are already running high,’’ she said.

Neiles said the area is prime for flooding.

The heaviest rains are forecast for the north, which was spared the worst of Irene and can better withstand the incoming moisture, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management.

Nevertheless, water rescue teams are on standby throughout the state, and transportation workers repairing roads that were damaged by the tropical storm have been told to head inside at the first sign of a storm, he said.

“It’s not expected to be on the scale of Irene last week, but we’re still preparing for the worst, just in case it is a bad situation,’’ said Bosma.

The threat of rivers and streams overflowing will again be a concern, especially after Irene, Bosma said.

On Thursday, two state transportation workers doing repair work in Clarendon, Vt., had to be rescued from a river after it unexpectedly rose faster than they could escape to higher ground, he said.

Residents caught in heavy rain should immediately seek higher ground if they are near a waterway, he said.

“It just comes up so fast,’’ Bosma said. “Especially when water comes down the mountain, rivers can rise really quickly.’’

Power outages could become an issue again as well, Bosma said.

Utility crews had restored power to all but 100 or so Vermont residents, but storms moving through the state earlier yesterday knocked out power to about 1,000 more people, he said.

Emergency management officials will continue to work around the clock as the rain and possible flooding move through, he said.

L. Finch can be reached at lfinch@globe.com.