Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vermont Irene Disaster Hurts Us All

I haven't posted on this blog for a couple of days because like everybody else in Vermont, I've been dealing with what is perhaps the worst disaster the Green Mountain State has ever seen.

Four people have died, buildings and houses have washed away, hundreds of roads are closed, a few of our iconic covered bridges that had been there for over 150 years were swept away, and towns are isolated.

I'm suffering from a bit of survivor's guilt. I was extremely lucky. Property damage at my house in St. Albans, Vermont consists of a few fallen branches.
The Winooski River roars past Winooski,
Vermont Monday. 

I work as a reporter at the Burlington Free Press, so I've been talking to lots of people who lived the worst of the flood.  Vermonters, me included, are proud and parochial about our state. It's corny as hell to say, but we love our beautiful villages, farms, small shops and rivers.

Some of that is in ruins. There's a video floating around YouTube of a covered bridge in Rockingham,  Vermont collapsing in the flood. Everyone who has seen it said it brought them to tears.

The power of the water, and where it went astounds everybody. I'll never get over it. There was white water on Main Street in Brandon, Vermont that pushed a pizza restaurant 25 feet downriver. In Wardsboro, four houses disappeared. They found a roof in the middle on Route 100 in Wilmington. Nobody knows where it came from.

Many of the towns hit hardest by the flooding were some of Vermont's prettiest. Grafton. Wilmington. Weston.

Some of my favorite places in Vermont are wrecked. The Weston Playhouse. The Alchemist, a brew pub in Waterbury that had the best beer in the state. (They hope to rebuild) My favorite swimming hole in the Mad River was surely hit. I wonder what that looks like.

Below is a video I shot of the torrent rushing past Winooski, Vermont yesterday.

But my mild anxiety pales in comparison to everybody else. I know a lot of people who suddenly have no house. Or no job. No prospects. What are they going to do? Nobody knows, and that's what really gnaws.

That's the refrain I keep hearing. Nobody knows. When will the road out of town reopen? Nobody knows. When will the electricity come back on? Nobody knows. The weather has been weird. Will we get a storm like this again in the coming years? Nobody knows. And that's the scariest unknown.

As always, Vermonters are turning out in droves to help out their flooded neighbors. There's no shortage of good ideas to help. On radio call in shows yesterday people suggested we raid our undamaged gardens and take the harvest to emergency shelters.  A couple of women in Waitsfield set up a table yesterday to solicit volunteers to help business owners start cleaning up. In less than an hour, the pair had 30 people helping out.

We help each other here in Vermont.  At this point, that's about all we've got. And that just might be enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment