News Release

Flooding in Vermont and Rural-Urban Inequities


Vermont is currently experiencing its worst flooding since Tropical Storm Irene hit the state in 2011. Some regions are recording up to nine inches of rain in a single day, threatening the stability of several of the state’s dams, and experts expect additional flooding. 

    Sosin is a public health practitioner, researcher and educator focused on issues of health equity globally and in rural northern New England. 

Sosin told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “This is an acute-on-chronic crisis. It’s a combination of the storm’s path as well as structural vulnerabilities. The storm is meeting a landscape that’s seen significant rain-flow in the last several weeks. We’re seeing dramatic images in Montpelier [the state capital], but in surrounding areas that are more rural, many of the roads into town have been cut off. Ambulances may not be able to get to hospitals; it’s harder to get in and out of those communities. We’re seeing rural inequities play out in both how the storm has hit and how it’s been responded to.”

Some particularly vulnerable rural areas may struggle with a “timely recovery. Just as disasters settle into the margins of society, recovery resources flow to the center––the areas that benefit from repairs. [Rural regions] may take longer to get back on the grid.”

Sosin praised the local action unfolding in rural areas. “But mutual aid can’t overcome large infrastructural damage or the structural imbalances in how a response plays out. Communities are mobilizing effectively by harnessing infrastructure from Hurricane Irene and the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’re not all on the same footing to mount a response or have access to repair for roads and waterways.” 

Sosin is also concerned about public health and health equity down the line. “Flooding presents an enormous health concern on many fronts: rapid flowing water; contaminated water; the environmental health risks when buildings sit in several feet of water; disruptions in access to medical care.”