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After flooding, Montpelier business owners grapple with what's next

On July 11, Montpelier residents woke up to find as much as 4 feet of water covering most of the downtown area and several nearby neighborhoods.

This happened because the city received a record amount of rainfall — twice the average July monthly amount — in just a 24-hour period. This caused the Winooski River, which was already at a high level, to rise an additional 10 feet to put it well above the flood level.

Wood and garbage piles up on the sidewalks of a downtown street
Bob Kinzel
Vermont Public
Flood related debris piles up on Langdon Street in Montpelier on Thursday, July 20.

This short documentary from Vermont Public examines the enormous amount of damage experienced by many in the capital city, including downtown Montpelier businesses Bear Pond Books, Capitol Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, Onion River Outdoors and The Quirky Pet.

"It's really crushing to see the piles of trash outside all the stores, you know?" said Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books. "Realizing as bad as it is here, it's every single store in this town — and it's a lot."

A man and woman stand side by side on a city street with debris piled behind them and white face masks pulled down from their faces
Kyle Ambusk
Vermont Public
Kip and Jen Roberts are co-owners of Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier.

The video also explores how a massive outpouring of support by volunteers from all across the state encouraged Montpelier to begin its long-term recovery.

And finally, it raises the question of the public policy concerns of rebuilding homes and businesses in exactly the same location when state officials fully expect more floods to take place in the future.

"There really hasn't been any question in my mind that we'll reopen, we just have to figure out where and when and how," said Jen Roberts, co-owner of Onion River Outdoors. "It's hard to imagine downtown coming back, you know? It's hard to imagine all of these stores rebuilding and reopening. I'm sure that probably won't happen. I don't know. It's hard to know what will happen."

Watch the full documentary above or on Vermont Public's YouTube page.

Note: Onion River Outdoors is a Vermont Public business sponsor.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Corrected: August 3, 2023 at 4:13 PM EDT
This video has been corrected to reflect the storm’s date and rainfall totals.
Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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