Rising river threatens East Middlebury residents - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rising river threatens East Middlebury residents

East Montpelier, Vermont - August 28, 2011

On the west side of the Green Mountains, East Middlebury faced evacuations from the downpour of Irene.

"Knowing this area and the river's capacity for change quickly, we decided to deploy our personnel down here and notify people of the possibility of evacuation," Assistant Middlebury Fire Chief David Shaw said. "And that was started around 2 o'clock this afternoon."

Three hours later the Middlebury River, located in a narrow valley, had changed character, filling up rapidly.

"Now we're evacuating people. We're in full evacuation; emergency shelter has been set up and we're trying to convince people to leave the area. This is difficult," Shaw said.

The river in East Middlebury had just starting to crest over its banks and run down the road around 5 p.m. Rescue crews started to go door-to-door to tell residents to evacuate. Not everyone was willing to leave. Highway and rescue personnel continued monitoring the river closely.

At the emergency shelter in the town offices of Middlebury were those being evacuated from the town. Even watershed specialist Charlie Hohn of East Middlebury was forced to leave his home. He admitted he likes watching rivers, but not running through his house.

Hohn said, "The house has been there since the 1820s so... I mean what can you do?"

As he sat in the shelter Sunday with others escaping the flood, rescue personnel continued to monitor the situation where Hohn's home is.

"This river is very confined in East Middlebury. There's cement walls on both sides, the river has washed out 125 in Ripton, so all that water still has to come down through here," Shaw said.

And avoiding all that water is the safest tactic as Hohn and other evacuated residents could attest.

"Better to be safe. Two of our roommates were stuck south of the river on 7 and so they had to hole up at a school. But, they're safe and we're safe, so that's always what's important," Hohn said.

The rains had slowed by 8 p.m. and the river started going back down.

Alden Pellett - WCAX News

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