Booming thunderstorm floods roads, swells streams

Hillside home threatened by rising water

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

An intense thunderstorm roared through a concentrated section of Williston last week, bloating streams, threatening a house and forcing the closure of multiple roads.

The storm hit the Village and its vicinity with particular force when it struck at approximately 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29. Portions of U.S. Route 2, as well as North Williston, Oak Hill and Governor Chittenden roads were closed for varying stretches of the afternoon because of flooding. All of the roads were reopened by 8:45 p.m.

Soon after the storm hit, Vermont Agency of Transportation workers arrived in town and went to work protecting a yellow house that sits on French Hill close to U.S. Route 2. The house and some accompanying outside propane tanks were besieged by a stream of runoff that had overwhelmed a nearby culvert and storm grate, according to Williston Police Officer Dan Gowans.

Gowans said the rush of water flowing down French Hill during and after the storm carried large amounts of mud and debris, which in turn clogged a storm drain. Gowans estimated the rainfall from the storm at 3 to 4 inches.

Stephen Brown, a resident of nearby Sunrise Drive, visited the scene after spotting the lights of the emergency vehicles. Brown had been digging trenches to direct runoff away from his house, which was threatened by approximately 3 feet of water around the foundation.

Brown described the running water on French Hill as a “torrent.” He said the threat to the yellow house was apparent.

“It was just running wild,” Brown said. “It was unbelievable. The water was right up against the house. It seemed like it was in danger of being knocked off its foundation.”

Gowans said state Agency of Transportation workers used a bucket loader to drag soil and build a dam that redirected the stream away from the house and across U.S. Route 2, which had already been closed.

The water also washed out a 3-foot stretch of U.S. Route 2 on French Hill, exposing a gas line, Gowans said. The line was covered by roadway again by the evening.

Elsewhere, two pedestrian bridges were overrun by Allen Brook — one on U.S. Route 2 and one on North Williston Road. The bridge on North Williston Road was submerged. At the bridge on U.S. Route 2, water from the brook swept over the bank and turned an adjacent field into a pond.

There were also reports of several fallen trees at Old Stage Estates.

The storm was apparently far more intense in Williston Village that in other parts of town. Williston Police Department dispatcher Scott Morris said the Taft Corners stoplights switched to flashing because of a power outage caused by the storm. Multiple motorists called the police department to ask why the lights were not functioning.

“When I told them ‘Because of the storm,’ they said, ‘What storm?’” Morris said.