So it turns out that Irene wasn’t the “Storm of the Century” for folks on the Atlantic Seaboard — beach town and megapolis alike were spared the brunt of Irene’s wrath — but rural Vermont wasn’t so lucky. Torrential rains lingered idly over Vermont’s already soggy mountain terrain, swelling creeks and rivers into raging torrents that undermined roads, swept bridges downstream, and inundated homes and businesses, alike. Now villages up and down state are isolated islands, cut off from all directions by washed out roads and bridges… you just can’t get there from here.
Towns like Waterbury — the center of my working life for most of the last seven years — were inundated as rivers escaped their banks much like they did in Vermont’s historic flood of 1927… which was likewise caused by a wayward tropical storm that meandered its way up from the Caribbean. Folks — family and friends, alike — are mucking-out today; mud and foul, fuel-oil fouled water, and waterlogged possessions. The unsalvageable bits go to the curb, the rest: photos, family heirlooms, items imbued with meaning and memory are fussed over and set aside with guarded optimism.
Folks here are stubborn (though they might prefer the word, resolute.) And while Vermonters will get on with the business of repairing, rebuilding and renewing their communities, there’s aspects that simply can’t be patched and fixed-up, losses that can’t be recovered. Three people died in storm-related incidents. Historic clapboard buildings, and centuries-old covered bridges are bits of Vermont’s heritage that can’t be merely replicated and made aright.
In the wake of the storm I’m feeling both grateful for my good fortune — Irene treated my home here in Vermont with kid gloves — and a bit guilty for my charmed life. I hope to make up for it by lending a helping hand this week.