4, 1927, heavy rains from the day before combined with saturated
soils and already-full rivers lead to the greatest natural distaster
Vermont had ever known. Though all of New England was affected,
Vermont was particularly devastated from Newport to Bennington.
Statewide, more than 1,200 bridges were destroyed, more than
80 people died, and countless homes and buildings were destroyed.
Among the hardest hit were Waitsfield's neighbors along the
Winooski River Valley, including Waterbury, Duxbury, Moretown, and
began on the evening of November 2, as a cold front
moved into the area from the west. Rainfall continued
through the night with light amounts being recorded
by the morning of the 3rd. Rainfall intensity
increased during the morning of the 3rd as a low pressure
center moved up along the Northeast coast. This
low had tropical moisture associated with it. As
the low moved up the coast, a strong southeast flow
developed. This mositure-laden air was forced
to rise as it encountered the Green Mountains, resulting
in torrential downpours along and east of the Green
Mountains. Rainfall amounts at the Weather Bureau
station in Northfield totaled 1.65 inches from 4:00
am to 11:00 am on the 3rd, with 4.24 inches falling
from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. The total from late
evening of the 2nd to late morning on the 4th was 8.71
Source: National Weather Service.
According to records at the National Weather Serivce, rainfall during
October 1927 averaged about 150 percent of normal across the state,
but the rainfall periods were far enough apart that flooding did
not occur then. However, by the time 9 inches of rain fell
over 36 hours, the soils were already saturated and rivers full.
The lack vegetation along the rivers because of the lateness
of the year allowed that much more runoff to flow directly into
An excellent history in the 2009 Waitsfield
Telecom Phone Book provides rare insight into the impacts Waitsfield
suffered during the flood. Like Warren and Moretown, mills
and properties along the Mad River were destroyed. The Waitsfield
Fayston Telephone Company also suffered losses with downed phone
lines, which hampered communications during such a critical time.
Destroyed bridge in nearby Waterbury, 1927
In Warren, a number of mills and roads were destroyed and the Kingsbury
Bridge was washed away. And in Moretown, according to a compilation
by Mary Reagan in the Brief History of Moretown, Vermont
for the Celebration of Moretown's Heritage and St. Patrick's Church
Centennial 1982, "[b]oth the Mad River and the Winooski River
rose to unheard of heights in a matter of twenty-four hours, flooding
everything in their paths. Damage in Moretown was extensive.
Five lives were lost as well as many farm animals and livestock.
In addition, thirty-eight bridges were swept away, and many
roads were completely destroyed. Houses, barns, and other
buildings were washed downstream, and nearly all remaining structures
were flooded with several feet of water. One dam was carried
away, and thousands of feet of lumber and acres of meadow land were
lost. In the Rock Bridge district, the Palisades, a lovely
scenic spot on the Winooski River, was completely destroyed."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built three flood control dams
in the area in an effort to prevent such devastation from future
flooding (Waterbury Reservoir, Wrightsville Reservoir, and East
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September 3, 2011
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