Editor’s note: Recent heavy rains remind us of the flood of 1973, a weather event that took place about 40 years ago from Sunday. The following is a summary of events from the July 5, 1973 edition of the Standard.
It dumped excessive amounts of rain onto the already soaked watersheds of the Ottauquechee, White and Ompompanoosac rivers. Two of these watersheds — the Ottauquechee and Ompompanosac — had flood control dams that closed their gates during this storm.
The Black River to the south also saw record high levels as waters piled up behind the flood control dam in North Springfield.
May and June had seen above-average precipitation. The rain from the big storm system ran off into rivers and stream creating a 50-year flood. It came to a head on Saturday, June 30.
In Woodstock, 6.30 inches of rain fell over the three days. Other figures were as follows: Rochester, 6.37 inches; Cavendish, 6.18 inches; Hanover, 3.07 inches; Quechee, 5.19 inches; Union Village, 3.31 inches; North Hartland, 5.20 inches; Lebanon, 3.5 inches.
Experts estimated that if precipitation had been measured on the high eastern slopes of the Green Mountains the figures could have exceeded eight inches.
On Saturday, June 30, Woodstock was on high alert. Emergency workers were evacuating people from homes and residents and business people in low-lying areas were trying desperately to save what they could. The flood also hit West Woodstock hard. Photographer Ken Miner’s account appeared in a truncated, hastily thrown-together flood edition of the Vermont Standard that had to be printed at the Valley News in West Lebanon. Publisher Benton Dryden was quite proud that despite the hardships, the weekly managed to keep its continuous publication record intact. The Standard’s presses were wiped out as the Ottauquechee jumped its banks in West Woodstock on June 30. Miner reported propane tanks from Leonards floating down the river through the village, which had flooded the lowlands behind houses and businesses.
Walter Brehaut, who lived in this area, was able to pull a small fawn out of the floodwaters and turn it over to a game warden.
Just as the flood waters were starting to recede around noon on June 30, a large beaver pond in South Woodstock breached and washed out. This surge of water caused the Kedron Brook to rise between two and three feet above its already high flood level, flooding Vail Field and the Woodstock Country Club. The water level on Maple Street and Golf Avenue in Woodstock Village damaged foundations and nearly flooded some buildings’ first floors. The Woodstock Inn basement and parking lots were flooded. Some houses became islands and residents were assisted to safety by members of the Woodstock Fire Department.
A photo taken by Godsill shows the snack bar, Leonards and the Standard building inundated with many propane tanks and downed trees floating about Woodstock’s municipal manager Sidney Smith reported that three bridges were lost in West Woodstock, Dunham Hill and Curtis Hollow.