Extreme weather has come to Vermont
State Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun stands at the ragged edge of Henwood Hill Road in Westminster.

Extreme weather has come to Vermont

As people living in Vermont, we all need to do our parts to address climate change. We just saw the effects, and they are dangerous - and expensive.

Climate change and its resulting weather variations are contributing to floods and massive roadway erosion in some parts of Vermont, and floods and droughts in other areas this month.

A large section of northern Vermont experienced abnormally dry conditions in July, but southern Vermont endured two major storms - one on July 17, the other on July 30 - causing significant harm from heavy rainfall.

Three cars landed in riverbeds in the two storms: one in Brattleboro, where a bridge washed out and the driver escaped moments before the car went down, and two cars in Westminster, where both went over the edge of dirt roads that collapsed taking vehicles and drivers into the roaring water.

Culverts were washed out (including one below the railway tracks in Dummerston days before the scheduled resumption of passenger train service to Vermont).

Climate change is dangerous - for our planet and our people.

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On Aug. 2, Gov. Phil Scott, along with the two of us, Windham County Sen. Becca Balint, and Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann, toured locations of ravaged areas in our county.

(Both of us Windham-4 representatives didn't need to go far to see the damage, as the dirt roads that we each live on in Westminster and Putney, respectively, were both seriously impacted.)

Bornemann and Westminster Town Manager Russ Hodgkins gave a tour of damages. Bornemann has requested a preliminary damage assessment to determine if Vermont can qualify for a federal disaster declaration, which would make it possible to access funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help the massive cost of repairs to our communities.

An early estimate of the damage just from the second storm is $4.6 million for Windham and Bennington counties. Hodgkins said the damage just to Westminster roadways is likely to be $500,000 to $600,000, which far exceeds the town's aptly named “Rainy Day Fund” reserve of $150,000.

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Other concerns related to storm damage have come to us from constituents who had difficulties with calling the 211 system. We are looking into that, so please stay tuned for updates in how the state can do better as it gathers and shares information during difficult times.

Reports of agricultural damage related to the storms have also come to our attention. If you have incurred damage, get in touch with your representative(s). We hope to be able to connect you with resources, especially if FEMA funds come through.

Vermont's Climate Council is working on a Climate Action Plan, which will be released later this year, before the Legislative session resumes in January.

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We urge all residents of Vermont to contact your legislators and let them know that climate issues need to be a priority. As people living in Vermont, we all need to do our parts to address climate change: carpool, drive more-fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce greenhouse gases (or, if possible, bike or walk). Think before you turn on your air conditioner or toss your laundry into the dryer.

Our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essential. “Our house is on fire,” Greta Thunberg told us. We can't wait to put out this fire - the walls, so to speak, are starting to come down. We need to do more - and do it more quickly.

“Climate change is real,” Gov. Scott stated on our visit together to Westminster. “These [powerful storms] are going to continue to happen.”

Let's all do what we can to mitigate these devastating consequences of climate change.

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