The Great 1927 Flood was easily the worst in the Vermont’s history. Torrential tropical rains of up to 9 inches from November 2-4 devastated the entire state, especially the Winooski Valley. Downtown Montpelier was under eight to 10 feet of water.
Had October not been unusually wet, the storm might not have done as much damage.
The 1927 Flood
It started with a hurricane moving up the Connecticut River Valley. When the storm system reached Vermont, it stalled between two cold high-pressure systems to the east and west. Torrential rain saturated the state. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated 53 percent of the state received more than six inches of rain, while the rest of Vermont got seven, eight and nine inches.
Rampaging waters took out 1,285 bridges and miles of roadway and railroads.
The 1927 flood also left 9,000 homeless and killed 84 people, including Lt. Gov. S. Hollister Jackson.
Jackson’s car stalled after he hit a hole while driving through the rising Potash Brook near his home in Barre. A witness saw his hat and glasses knocked off, and he seemed dazed. He then got out of his car and began walking toward his home. Rushing water carried him away, despite attempts to save him. He drowned, and the next day his body was recovered from the Potash about a mile from where he was last seen.
After the floodwaters receded, Vermont rebuilt its infrastructure. New bridges were constructed on reinforced concrete and new two-lane roads and railroads rebuilt on raised beds of rock and dirt.
To mitigate future floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built three reservoirs in the Winooski River basin at East Orange, Wrightsville and Waterbury. In 1949, the Corps finished the Union Village Reservoir and dam on the Ompompanoosuc River.
By the early 1960s, four more reservoirs were completed in the Connecticut River basin at North Hartland, North Springfield, Ball Mountain and Townshend. Those post-flood changes shaped Vermont’s landscape today.
‘I Love Vermont’
In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge visited his native Vermont to see how the state had recovered from the 1927 flood. He gave a speech in Bennington praising ‘the people of this brave little state of Vermont.’ Coolidge said,
I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people.
For a documentary about the 1927 flood click here: http://bit.ly/171DIzg
This story was updated in 2020.