Slopes Submerged: Understanding and Addressing Flooding in Ludlow

February 8, 2024 by Nicholas Alois

View from Main Street in Ludlow. Source: Joe Shlabotnik,, no changes made.

Last summer, Ludlow, Vermont, experienced devasting flooding after several inches of rain fell in the area in one day. In this article, Nicholas Alois discusses the flood’s impact on the community, the long rebuild process, and recommended flood prevention and mitigation efforts moving forward.

A small ski-town in southern Vermont, known for its stunning views, freshwater lakes and streams, and family-oriented mountain activities, was devasted by flooding this past summer.[1]  The rebuild process for Ludlow has been a struggle for many businesses in the area.  For some, the recovery process has been long and expensive, leaving doors shut during the ski-town’s busiest time of the year.[2]  As a history of catastrophic flooding looms over this town where ski and nature enthusiasts live and others visit, crucial decisions need to be made to protect the community from severe suffering in the future.

In July 2023, Ludlow looked at a lot different from its typical form.  Streets in the summer that give views to the green foliage of Okemo Mountain Resort were under more than three feet of water, forcing residents to use kayaks to get out of their homes.[3]  Ludlow reported over 7.7 inches of rain on July 10, 2023,[4] leading to train tracks suspended in the air as the ground underneath them washed out, mudslides, and a local steakhouse under seven feet of water.[5]  A saddening part of the flooding is that this phenomenon is not new, and it is becoming more frequent.  This summer’s storm, which came shortly after a long rebuild process from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 that dropped nearly a foot of rain in the area, was described by locals to be dramatically worse.[6]

The community has received assistance from the Federal Government to rebuild from this past summer’s floods.  However, obtaining reimbursement from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been a tough process for many to navigate.[7]  With Ludlow only having a six-person crew to repair roadways that were completely washed away, manpower, resources, and finances are a concern for residents, small businesses, and the local government.[8]  In order to get the town navigable, repairs had to be funded by the town, depleting local government budgets.[9]  For Ludlow, a priority was making the town navigable for residents and before tens of thousands of visitors flooded the town to enjoy the slopes at Okemo Mountain Resort.[10]  The questions that now remain are how much reimbursement will towns like Ludlow get, and when will it come?

As of January 2024, Ludlow has spent nearly $1.9 million to rebuild its town, a figure that does not account for all the repairs that are still needed, including a wastewater plant that was damaged from the floods.[11]  FEMA will only reimburse the town for 75% of its repair expenditures.[12]  With Vermont contributing another 12.5% for reimbursements, Ludlow is forced to incur 12.5% of total costs of repair.  For Windsor County, the county that Ludlow resides in, flood damages have been estimated to exceed $20 million, with $15 million damaging the area’s wastewater plant.[13]

For homeowners in the area, FEMA reimbursement has been a headache.  For example, many manufactured homes that were damaged in the summer flood were deemed to be destroyed and unrepairable by the Vermont state government, while these same homes were deemed to be repairable by FEMA.[14]  The problem with this determination by FEMA is that it reduces the reimbursement to residents for rebuilding their homes.[15]  To bridge this gap, Vermont has stepped in to offer additional assistance to those rebuilding.[16]

Local businesses have not fared better when it comes to tacking on repairs from the catastrophic flood.  While Vermont Governor Phil Scott has dedicated $20 million of state funds to flood relief programs,[17] some businesses in Ludlow have not been able to rebuild yet.  For example, the town’s only supermarket, Shaw’s, has been unable to fully open its doors due to the flooding sustained this summer.[18]  Due to Shaw’s closure, residents and visitors have to frequent smaller general stores for their basic needs.  To help business owners navigate the reimbursement process as they rebuild, the Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Entrepreneurial Legal Lab and Legal Services Vermont have been offering clinics.[19]

With floods like this summer becoming a more frequent event in Ludlow, strategic efforts need to be made to protect the town and prevent severe devastation from happening again.  For southern Vermont, the area is expected to have extreme precipitation increase by 52%, when floods like this summer’s used to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.[20]  To tackle this issue, Vermont needs to focus its efforts on urban planning and the state’s current susceptibility to flooding.  To an extent, Vermont has already been looking at this vulnerability since Tropical Storm Irene.[21]  However, given the life-altering flood this summer, this should be at the forefront of the local government’s business.  Actionable measures include transforming riverbanks, incorporating floodwalls, levees, and reducing erosion.  Another measure is getting FEMA to update its flood maps to show flood hazards and how rain impacts local towns.  FEMA flood maps for many Vermont counties are over ten years old and do not reflect the devastation that occurred from Tropical Storm Irene.[22]  Some measures of the Vermont government, including purchasing flood-prone properties, have been met with mixed attitudes by residents in the area.[23]  With towns like Ludlow being known for their outdoor activities, protecting one of its most important assets should be a top priority for Vermont as it helps its towns rebuild.


[1] Brandon Truitt, Views from SkyEye: ‘Catastrophic’ Floods Leave Destruction Throughout Vermont, CBS Boston (July 11, 2023,7:47 PM),

[2] Kevin O’Connor, The Once-Flooded Ski Town of Ludlow is Back in Business.  Just Bring Your Own Groceries, VTDigger (Dec. 12, 2023, 4:07 PM),

[3] Lucy Sherriff, How the US is Fighting Back Against Deadly Floods, BBC (July 31, 2023, 8:05 AM),

[4] Chris Oberholtz, Aerial Footage Shows Railroad Tracks Suspended in Air after Vermont Flooding Wipes Out Trestle, FOX 5 Washington DC (July 12, 2023),

[5] Katy Savage & Victoria Gaither, ‘It’s Like a Scene from Irene’, Mountain Times (July 12, 2023),

[6] Id.

[7] Auditi Guha, After the Floods, Small Towns Struggle with Road Repairs and Budget Worries, VTDigger (Aug. 23, 2023, 10:12 AM),

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Nick Giberti, Ludlow Selectboard Hears Recovery Updates, Talks Reappraisal, The Vermont Journal (Jan. 12, 2024),

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] O’Connor, supra note 2.

[14] Carly Berlin, Vermont Announces Flood Money for Manufactured Home Owners When FEMA Aid Comes Up Short, VTDigger (Sept. 19, 2023, 5:21 PM),

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Howard Weiss-Tisman, Vermont Broadband Board Members Concerned Over Scott Using $20M for Flood Aid, Vermont Public (Aug. 25, 2023, 4:36 PM),

[18] O’Connor, supra note 2.

[19] VLGS Post-Flood Legal Clinic in Ludlow, The Vermont Journal (Jan. 9, 2024),

[20] Sherriff, supra note 3.

[21] Id.

[22] Erin Petenko, It May Be Years Before FEMA Maps Show the Full Flood Risk to Vermont Communities, VTDigger (Aug. 27, 2023, 8:16 AM),

[23] Sherriff, supra note 3.