Historic Floods in Central Vermont; WEC Offers Community Fund Flood Response Grants

Coop CurrentsCoop News

On July 9, towering purple and black thunderheads sat over Central Vermont, crackling with lightning and dumping hard rain. The next day, July 10, prolonged, torrential rain caused the worst flooding Vermont has seen since Tropical Storm Irene, and in many areas, since 1927. The next day, July 11, state officials watched Wrightsville Dam with concern as water rose within a foot of reaching the spillway, which would have sent more water into catastrophically flooded downtown Montpelier. WEC owns the generation plant at Wrightsville Dam, and had to temporarily shut it down due to water pressure on the turbines. The State of Vermont owns and manages the dam and its flood control mechanisms.

Washington Electric Co-op’s lines did not incur much damage from the storm. “It’s because we don’t serve any downtowns,” explained General Manager Louis Porter. “Our rural, offroad system, which makes us so vulnerable to winter storms, actually protected us this time.” In the July storm, developed areas, where waterways and infrastructure converge, were hit the worst. Many towns in WEC’s service area were among those categorized by Vermont Emergency Management as having major flood damage, including Montpelier and East Montpelier, Barre, Cabot, Calais, Marshfield, and most of Orange County.

Much of that damage was road damage, and road damage did create obstacles for WEC crews. Between 1,100-1,200 members lost power due to the storm; lineworkers reached many of those outage points by all-terrain vehicles or other offroad means. Some members experienced intentional outages later, when power was shut off on certain stretches to allow for highway departments to safely repair washed out roads.

Because so many members, friends, and neighbors are facing enormous and immediate need as a result of flood damage, the Board committee that manages WEC’s Community Fund quickly decided to offer immediate $1,000 grants to impacted nonprofits in WEC territory. 

The Community Fund is funded through voluntary donations from Co-op members who choose to contribute their annual capital credit refunds. The Fund supports small, local not-for-profits working within the same service area as the Co-op.

To apply for a grant, email wec.community.fund@wec.coop.

Emergency Resources: Flood Damage
Our partners at Capstone (capstonevt.org) recommend the following steps to access resources to Vermonters affected by flood damage.
  • Call 211 for access to emergency resources.
  • Insurance: Contact your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company to file a claim
  • FEMA application: Call 211 or your local emergency management team for help filing for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If your application is not approved in full and you wish to appeal, help is available with the appeal process as well.
  • SBA application: If your business was impacted, contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a low-interest loan.
  • USDA 504 Home Repair: Federal home repair loans are available for income-qualified members.
  • Forbearance: Contact your creditors to inquire about forbearance for mortgage payments, auto loans, credit card bills, student loan repayment, or other loans if you were financially impacted by the flood disaster. Call WEC if you need support paying your electric bill.
  • When you are rebuilding and replacing devices, contact Capstone and Efficiency Vermont for weatherization incentives and equipment rebates to make your home safer and more resilient. Low to no-interest financing is available.
  • For financial and energy coaching support, contact your local Community Action Agency: Capstone at capstonevt.org or Northeast Kingdom Community Action at nekcavt.org.