Extreme Weather Events and Health Impacts

Tropical Storm Irene Hurricane Vermont House Flood

Climate change is already affecting weather patterns in Vermont. Since 1965, annual precipitation has increased by 7 inches, and the number of days per year with precipitation of 1 inch or more has nearly doubled. These trends are expected to continue. Heavy rainfall events are expected to occur more often, which increases risk of flooding, damage to transportation infrastructure and buildings, water and crop contamination, wind damage, and power outages.

Recent extreme weather events have had serious health consequences.

Vermont had 18 federally-declared disasters in the past 10 years, up over 50% from the preceding 10 years. Most of these disasters were a result of severe storms and flooding. Tropical Storm Irene was the most notable of these, and was associated with:

  • Six deaths
  • Mold growth in water-logged buildings
  • Extensive property and infrastructure damage, power outages, and other service disruptions
  • Wellheads submerged and contaminated by floodwaters
  • 30 public water systems issued Boil Water Notices
  • 17 wastewater treatment facilities reported compromised operations
  • Septic system failures, fuel spills, other hazardous contamination
  • Over $10 million estimated damage to crops and farmlands
Health can be affected even after the storm is over.

Aside from the immediate risks to life and property during extreme weather events, ongoing risks after a disaster include electric shock from downed power lines, managing hot and cold temperatures when the power is out, carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of back-up electric generators, spoiled food and water contamination, mold growth in buildings, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Be prepared for more frequent extreme weather events in the future.

The Vermont Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) has resources for individuals, families, communities, and businesses to prepare for extreme weather events and other emergencies:

Communities should adopt Local Hazard Mitigation Plans, Local Emergency Operations Plans, and other plans to help reduce vulnerabilities and prepare to respond during and after a disaster.

Flood Ready Vermont is a great resource for communities and community organizations to better understand flood hazards in their area and use mapping tools to help identify areas of flood risk.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) provides great information and updates on road conditions during storms. Follow VTrans on Twitter or learn more about winter weather information including plow information, highway webcams, and more at the VTrans Winter Weather Central page.

Consider starting or joining a group to help communities prepare for and respond to disasters.