Hurricane Irene 2011: Upstate New York, Vermont Face Major Flooding

As Hurricane Irene travels northward, leaving the major cities of New York and Washington in better shape than anticipated, new dangers are arising for the remote and rural portions of upstate New York and Vermont, where massive flooding has already devastated several small communities.

Throughout upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, several small towns have been completely submerged by floodwaters, which have roared down the region's many rivers and streams.

Much of the land in the area was already waterlogged when Irene arrived, dumping another 10-15 inches of rain.

The local news website Watershed Post has kept a running tally of local reports of "devastation" in the small towns in the region.

In Windham, for instance, news sources and images linked on the site have depicted a scene of "total destruction," with most houses in the low-lying parts of town covered to their roofs in water. The town has been "wiped out," in the words of Windham Fire Chief Michael Scarey, according to the Mid Hudson News.

Commenters on the site have described a rapidly deteriorating situation, with the local emergency services reportedly being completely overwhelmed by the number of people in need.

At 9:22 p.m., one resident reported:

Maplecrest [next to Windham] has no access, bridges are gone. My partner is up there with our dog, but has no power. Neighbor nearby had his garage float down the Batavia Creek with an 19 foot boat on a trailor swallowed up by the water -- people panicked, some water up to second floors -- family with two children yelling for help, but no one can get to them -- They need to get national guard in there ASAP.

Reuters reported Sunday that a troop from the National Guard had earlier rescued 21 people from a hotel in the small Catskills town of Pratsville, after they became trapped by surging rivers.

In Vermont, State Emergency Management Director Mike O'Neill is calling his state's situation "the worst I've ever seen."

"It's so widespread," he told the Associated Press. "Usually we deal with more localized situations, but this is spread throughout the state."

Large parts of the towns of Brattleboro and Bennington were entirely underwater, according to local reports.

Meanwhile in Montpelier, the state's capital and home to some 7,000 people, anxious residents were awaiting a decision by Green Mountain Power, which has said it may have to release water from its dam 20 miles up the Winooski River from the city. Doing so "would increase the flooding of the Winooski," a Green Mountain spokesman told the AP. "We don't want to do it. But if the dam were to be compromised, it would be a far greater effect."

Some 350 households were being evacuated Sunday from East Montpelier as a precaution, officials said.

According to a message posted late Sunday to a city website by William Frasier, the Montpelier City Manager, the waters around the city are expected to crest at 20 feet, around 2:30 a.m. local time. "A major emergency is on the horizon in Montpelier and is already occurring in other communities in the region," Frasier warned.

Massive flooding also wiped away several of Vermont's historic covered bridges, including one in Bartonsville that had been constructed in 1870.

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