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Vermont Flood Update

by Pat Carbonell
posted 8/30/2011

I started off my online day by hitting the news sites, in particular the site for Vermont Today, which is run by two Rutland Herald and Times Argus reporters (http://rutlandherald.typepad.com/vermonttoday/). In the past 48 hours I have found it to be immensely helpful. It doesn’t hurt that with a blog format, the general public can post information. I almost inhaled my coffee reading the first article.

US 4 at River Road washout

Vyto Starinskas, a staff photographer with the Rutland Herald, hiked and hitchhiked east and north today, sending back photos of the devastation and filing reports. At River Road east of the Killington Access Road, the waters not only took out the road but demolished and swept away a vacant house that had been for sale. The “For Sale” sign is all that is left.

Residents in the Mendon-Killington area have been telling Vyto that while they have plenty of beer, they are running low on milk and bread. The lead photo shows crews building a single lane emergency road past the washout above Sugar and Spice.

US 4 Emergency lane construction

That article led to others, which led to Facebook postings and YouTube videos, then to other blogs. I experienced that oh so familiar feeling of getting lost amongst the links trying to verify all of the snippets. When I was growing up if we asked what a word meant, we were sent to the dictionary, and if there was a word in the definition we didn’t know, we had to look that up and so on and so on. This could take an hour or more for one frigging word. Today it was more like six hours, partially because the situation has been changing all day.

Word this evening is that by 8 am tomorrow another single lane will be opened at the Rt 4/River Road washout to allow any folks from the Mendon/Killington area to drive out to Interstates 89 and 91. The auto convoy will be allowed passage from 8 to 10 am only, and no one will be allowed to come back until stable roadways in and out are restored. Those who remain will be having supplies air-lifted in.

National Guard helicopters and heavy-duty trucks have begun getting food and water to isolated towns. Helicopters are air-lifting supplies to Cavendish (my niece and her 2 daughters are stranded there), Granville, Hancock, Killington-Mendon, Marlboro, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Rochester, Stockbridge, Strafford, Stratton and Wardsboro. The Guard is using the trucks to bring relief to communities still reachable by road.

In Rochester, where telephones were out amid severe damage, Wendy Pratt posted an update on Facebook using a generator and a satellite Internet connection. She wrote “People have lost their homes, their belongings, businesses … the cemetery was flooded and caskets were lost down the river. So many areas of complete devastation … In town there is no cell service or internet service – all phones in town are out. We had a big town meeting at the church at 4 this afternoon to get any updates … Mac’s opened up at 5 and gave perishables away to anyone who came … The Huntington House put on a big, free community dinner tonight.”

Access to Rochester and Stratton by road was restored late today.

Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management, said today “If it’s a life-and-death situation, where someone needs to be Medevac-ed or taken to a hospital, we would get a helicopter there to airlift them out, if we could get close to them. A lot of these areas are mountainous areas where there may not be a place to land.”

Apparently lacking just such a place to land, it took a relay operation involving two ambulances and an all-terrain vehicle to take a Killington woman in respiratory distress to the hospital in Rutland, Regional Medical Center President Tom Hubner said. While the patient is doing fine, I do wonder why they weren’t able to take her to one of the open stretches of US 4 to meet a helicopter. I know that road well, and there are plenty of places along the closed sections that have more than adequate clearance for a chopper to set down.

So far there have been three confirmed deaths in Vermont. There is one additional Rutland man missing and feared dead, as he was with his father, whose body has been recovered. The area of Mendon where they were checking Rutland’s water supply when lost is now inaccessible.

Throughout the state there are stories of our small communities coming together, helping their neighbors, digging out. In Pittsfield the townsfolk are using backhoes and bulldozers from their farms to fill in washouts in Rt. 100 with stone and gravel themselves, instead of waiting for the already stretched state road crews and private contractors to get there. Cities and towns large enough to have their own crews are doing an enormous amount of work reaching their people. First responders are out there. A food shelf manager reported having five people walk in her door to ask what they could do to help, and falling in to move food stocks to higher shelves.

There is a generosity of spirit in this state that comes out in times like these. I remember a few years ago, during the Valentine’s Day blizzard, being outside trying to shovel our car out enough to get a running start at the snow drifts. The landlords for my and my neighbors’ buildings didn’t contract snow plowing, so we were on our own. Just about the time I was ready to give up, a pickup with a plow pulled into the driveway, dropped his blade, and drove straight to the back of the lot. He and a buddy climbed out of the cab, grabbed shovels and started clearing what the truck couldn’t get. They had been heading home, spotted me and came back to help. All we could give them was hot cocoa, but it was enough.

We will absolutely take the help we do need to do the big things in this recovery. For the smaller victories, it’s going to be us, one shovelful at a time, digging each other out.

photos © Rutland Herald, Vyto Starinskos

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2 Responses to Vermont Flood Update

  1. LOrion

    August 31, 2011 at 12:55 am

    You do realize TWC is predicting Rain for 3 Daus this weekend.

    • Pat

      August 31, 2011 at 9:10 am

      LOrion, yes, we know. The thunderstorms are supposed to start tomorrow afternoon, which is when I’m out in Castleton selling at the farmers market there. As I make jewelry, I’m not expecting any sales, but have to go just in case. As for the rest of the state, they’re hustling to get to the stranded ahead of the coming rain.