Facing water scarcity, Utah couple escape to Green Mountains

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:59 PM EDT
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - Despite the soggy weather across Vermont this week -- what experts say will be a more frequent occurrence of climate change -- Vermont’s weather trends appear to be faring far better than much of the country. Reporter Kevin Gaiss met with one couple who escaped the drought-stricken west in search of the Green Mountains.

“We saw the writing on the wall and decided we just can’t do it, it’s not sustainable,” said Megan Nolen, who along with her husband, Christian Schull, moved from Utah to Vermont this summer to chase water -- and they found it.

“Rain -- that would be like a big deal in Utah, like flooding. You go outside and your like, ‘Oh my God, look at this storm, it’s crazy,’ and you just marvel at it,” Schull said. The area where they lived in northern Utah is currently in extreme drought, coupled with high temperatures. “I mean it’s literally life-threatening, you know, how bad it gets.” They consider themselves climate migrants, finding Vermont with the promise of a more moderate climate.

NOAA’s disaster tracker follows dollars spent on disasters across the country to gauge severity. Going back to 1980, drought conditions across the country -- especially in the southern central and southeastern U.S. -- are high. New England, including Vermont, fares far better on drought. And when it comes to all severe weather events, Vermont, is also looking good.

“We really have a good moderate climate up here and I think that’s what makes us very attractive,” said Steve Whittier, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Burlington. He says in the last century, the 1927 flood, Tropical Storm Irene, and the 1998 ice storm stand out as the state’s major weather events.

When it comes to forecasting future weather patterns, Whittier says last week’s soggy conditions could be a taste of coming attractions. “In the overall scheme of things, yearly precipitation might be above normal. How we get there might be different,” he said. He says periods of micro droughts or abnormally dry weather will likely be bookended with heavy bouts of rainfall. “We have all witnessed in the last week here significant rainfall that was two to three inches across different parts of Vermont and northern New York.”

Whittier says this could have impacts on agriculture in the growing season or skiing in the winter months because of inconsistent snowfall.

But there is water, something Nolen and Schull say they are grateful for. “I don’t even know, I don’t have the words. It just comes from the sky, it’s just here -- that’s wonderful,” Nolen said. She says Newport has welcomed them and they plan to stay. “We are certainly a lucky couple that got out while the gettings good.”