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Nearly 120 people have been rescued as flooding continues in Vermont

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

The streets of Vermont's capital city, Montpelier, are underwater today. The entire state is experiencing catastrophic flooding after days of heavy rain. Nearly 120 people have been rescued, and it's not over yet. From Vermont Public, we're joined now by Peter Hirschfeld. He's in Montpelier. Peter, welcome.

PETER HIRSCHFELD, BYLINE: Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Tell us what things are looking like where you are.

HIRSCHFELD: Apocalyptic is one word I've heard a few people use today to describe what they're witnessing. I arrived in downtown Montpelier a little after sunrise this morning, and there were several feet of standing water. The only traffic in downtown today has been swiftwater rescue boats traveling door to door to evacuate local residents who'd become stranded in their apartments and homes. One of those residents is Devon Andrews (ph). She was trapped on the second floor of her apartment complex this morning. I caught up with her early this morning, just after daybreak, moments after rescue crews escorted her off a bright blue boat and onto dry pavement.

DEVON ANDREWS: I've now evacuated with my pet. Really scary - never been through anything like this before. We're seeing, obviously, the worst flooding since probably 1992.

HIRSCHFELD: Andrews is right, Adrian, about that. The flooding here is at least the worst we've seen since 1992. And city officials say that Montpelier is in uncharted territory with this event.

FLORIDO: Well, Peter, what do we know about the damage so far?

HIRSCHFELD: So state and local officials haven't really begun to assess the damage yet, and that's because the state is still very much in life-saving mode. Governor Phil Scott activated the Vermont National Guard earlier today. They're using helicopters to assess - to access remote areas of the state, airlifting folks who are trapped in flooded areas. They're just trying to get people to higher ground right now. The hardest-hit areas of the state are in southern and central Vermont. Some towns in the foothills of the Green Mountain Range suffered the most severe flooding. Many of these are ski towns.

It's worth reminding people here Vermont is a rural state. Even Montpelier, the state capital, only has about 8,000 residents. Municipal road crews are small. Transportation infrastructure is diffuse. And so recovery will be a lot of work for the small communities here. I talked to a local dentist in Montpelier whose practice was just about level with the high-water mark earlier this morning. Her name is Caroline Murphy, and she's still trying to process what she's seen.

CAROLINE MURPHY: I mean, we've had things happen here before but not to this extent. Like, this is just - I almost can't wrap my head around it, you know? It's really unbelievable.

FLORIDO: And it is still raining there, Peter. What do we know about the forecast for the next few days?

HIRSCHFELD: That's the concerning thing right now. This is already a historically significant event for the state, and it could get much worse. The sun did come out in Montpelier a few hours ago, and rain has tapered off across the state. And rivers are beginning to recede, but the National Weather Service is calling for a potentially significant precipitation event on Thursday and into Friday. The governor was emphatic in a briefing earlier today that this is not over. We could see floods resume at the end of the week potentially as powerful and dangerous, as damaging as what we've seen here over the past 36 hours. And it'll be months, if not years, before Vermont fully recovers from this.

FLORIDO: That's Vermont Public's Peter Hirschfeld in Montpelier. Thanks for your reporting.

HIRSCHFELD: Thank you, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Peter Hirschfeld covers state government and the Vermont Legislature. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse.