Vermont and federal officials verify flood damage

BETHEL, Vt. (WCAX) Strong rains that ripped through our region ten days ago left a wake of destruction, washing out roads, bridges, and culverts.

In Rochester, the Bethel Mountain Road is still closed to through-traffic and the town tells Channel 3 it might stay that way for six months. Emergency work is going on now to stabilize the road and minimize further damage, but permanent fixes won't happen until federal money comes through.

Local, state, and federal officials are fanning out across Vermont assessing damage from last week's flooding -- early estimates are in the millions.

Town officials in Bethel say the current damage there is not nearly as bad as what it sustained during Tropical Storm Irene, but around 20 roads are impacted from the recent rain and high water.

"We've got four or five spots where it was pretty bad," said Bethel Town Manager Greg Maggard.

FEMA officials are collecting data in 20 to 30 towns in central and southern Vermont.

"Which will then be used by the Governor to request federal assistance in the form of a Stafford Act declaration," said FEMA's Diego Alvarado.

"We have about ten that were hit pretty severe," said Kimberly Canarecci with Vermont Emergency Management, whose crews are helping to facilitate the preliminary damage estimates. If a federal disaster is declared by the President, the government would pick up 75 percent of the clean up costs.

But some of the repairs have already begun. "We always strongly encourage our towns to start rebuilding and documenting with photographs and invoicing all their paperwork so that it can be reimbursed later," Canarecci said.

Officials say that Bethel alone is is looking at around $800,000 in damages. A big price tag for a little town hit had by a spring storm.

"If they weren't there to help us out and aid us in this whole process -- in how to get things out back and where the money is going to come from and how to acquire that money -- we wouldn't be able to do it," Maggard said.

FEMA crews will be here for the next couple of days, but it could be several months before an official declaration is made by the President.

Other areas that may qualify for federal assistance include Bennington, Essex, Orange, Rutland, Washington, and Windsor Counties.