Flash floods leave at least 1 dead in New York as heavy rains pound Northeast

State of emergency declared in Vermont as officials warn that deluge not seen since Tropical Storm Irene could lead to catastrophic flooding.

Flash floods triggered by torrential rain in New York’s Hudson Valley left at least one person dead on Sunday night, while Vermont and the rest of the Northeast braced for a deluge that had more than 14 million people under flood watches or warnings.

In Orange County, N.Y., a woman in her 30s drowned after being swept away while trying to evacuate her home with her dog, officials said. The dog survived.

“Her house was completely surrounded by water,” Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told WABC-TV. “She was trying to get through it with her dog, and she was overwhelmed by tidal-wave type waves.”

'Once-in-a-thousand-year event'

A car on its side on a collapsed roadway with debris all around.
A car on a collapsed roadway in the Hudson Valley near Cornwall, N.Y., on Monday. (Paul Kazdan/AP)

Up to 8 inches of rain — an entire summer’s worth — fell in parts of New York state in a matter of hours, washing out major roads and highways. Route 9W and parts of the Palisades Interstate Parkway were closed, and train service was suspended on the Hudson Valley branch of the Metro North commuter railroad.

Severe flooding was also seen in West Point, N.Y., home to the U.S. Military Academy. The floodwaters trapped people in their cars and forced them to swim out for safety, a West Point Military Police official told CNN Sunday. It was unclear if anyone had been injured, the official said.

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“We are in the midst of an extraordinary, extraordinary weather event that has just devastated communities throughout the Hudson Valley," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference in Highland Falls, N.Y., on Monday morning. “They’re calling this a once-in-a-thousand-year event.”

Water flows over the Metro North train tracks along the Hudson River.
Water flows over the Metro North train tracks along the Hudson River during a flash flood near Manitou, N.Y., on Sunday. (Courtesy of the MTA via AP)

Hochul pointed to the wildfire smoke that blanketed the state and the record snowfall in Buffalo in December as examples of extreme weather driven by climate change that will continue to impact people in New York and around the world.

“This is the new normal,” she said. “And we in government, working with our partners on the ground, have to work with our communities to build up resiliency, to be prepared for the worst — because the worst continues to happen.”

Vermont braces for Irene-like floods

Vehicles at a standstill near a washed-out and flooded portion of the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
Vehicles at a standstill near a washed-out and flooded portion of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Orange County, N.Y., on Sunday. (David Bauder/AP)

In Vermont, officials warned that the state could see catastrophic, life-threatening flooding, as forecasters predicted a deluge of rain will fall Monday on already-saturated mountains, rivers and streams.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said 19 people were rescued from floodwaters triggered by rainfall totals not seen since Tropical Storm Irene, which dumped more than 8 inches of rain in the state, sweeping away hundreds of homes and businesses, bridges, roads, crops and cars in 2011.

“It’s flooding that we haven’t seen in over a decade,” said Matthew Clay, a Burlington, Vt.-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

While heavy rains fell across the state, the towns of Londonderry and Weston, Vt., were among the hardest hit.

“Widespread significant-to-catastrophic flooding is expected across much of the area today,” the National Weather Service in Burlington warned. “Areas that have seen recent heavy rainfall, areas with steep terrain and locations near fast-responding small streams have the highest chances of seeing flooding. If you live, travel or work in a flood-prone area, please make sure to stay alert and watch for rapid water rises. Never cross a flooded roadway. Turn around, don’t drown!”