Photo Essays

Photo Essay: Vermont Recovers from Irene

During the final weekend of August, Hurricane Irene was approaching the eastern United States. Since I have family back there, I called to make sure that everyone was all right.

The phone conversation with my Aunt Jean in Vermont had a very worried tone. About Hurricane Irene, she said, “It’s as big as Europe!”

After it came ashore and became a (very wet) tropical storm, Irene aimed straight for Vermont. Which had already experienced a week of rain — and serious flooding back in May. The ground was already saturated.

On Sunday, August 28, Irene dumped seven inches of rain on Vermont, a state of steep mountains and narrow valleys. Those picturesque brooks you see in tourism brochures became raging torrents that wiped out roads, pushed covered bridges downstream, and flooded homes and businesses.

That big-as-Europe storm packed quite a punch, one that Vermont is still recovering from. This photo essay documents recovery efforts in two towns along hard-hit Route 100, one of Vermont’s primary north-south highways.

In mid-October, I’m in Vermont, in Aunt Jean’s car, and we’re stopping for a Route 100 reconstruction project in Waitsfield. During the storm, the Mad River got angry and took out the road…

Photo essays - Post-Irene Route 100 reconstruction in Waitsfield, Vermont

Aunt Jean lives on a high hill north of the town of Waterbury. So, she wasn’t directly affected by the Winooski River flood waters. But the town certainly was.

Note the flood water line on this empty store window. That’s about four feet high and the river is almost a half mile away…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene flood water line in Waterbury, Vermont

The Winooski River is nice and peaceful again. It’s just beyond the Waterbury public park, where storm debris is still visible…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene flood debris in Waterbury, Vermont

Time for a walk down Waterbury’s historic Randall Street, which was devastated by Irene…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene-devastated Randall Street in Waterbury, Vermont

Some Randall Streeters are staying with friends and relatives in Waterbury while their houses are being repaired. Others have had to find temporary housing elsewhere.

Right now, the busiest people on Randall Street are the cleanup and construction crews. This is but one of the many debris piles I saw…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene-devastated Randall Street in Waterbury, Vermont

These signs are awaiting official highway posts. In the meantime, the Randall Street trees will have to stand in as sign props…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene-devastated Randall Street in Waterbury, Vermont

I was struck by the fact that, no matter how severe the storm damage, almost every Randall Street house is flying an American flag…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene-devastated Randall Street in Waterbury, Vermont

Randall Street ends at the State of Vermont Waterbury Office Complex, which was severely damaged by flood waters. Most of the complex’s 1,500 employees are now working elsewhere.

The Randall Street entrance to the complex was guarded by a security officer who told me in no uncertain terms that I could go no further. So, this photo was taken while I walked along Main Street…

Photo essays - Tropical Storm Irene forced the closure of the State of Vermont Waterbury Office Complex

After Hurricane Katrina, the federal government response was scandalously slow. Not so for Irene. Locals told me that FEMA was in Waterbury the next day…

Photo essays - FEMA disaster recovery center sign, Waterbury, Vermont

Before FEMA could open for business, the fire station needed a bit of tidying up. Flood waters came here too…

Photo essays - FEMA disaster recovery center, Waterbury, Vermont

Waterbury’s private and non-profit sectors are vigorously engaged in the recovery effort. Here’s a sampling of signs from around town.

Sorry to say, but I think that a lot of rug owners will find out that their floor coverings aren’t salvagable. But it never hurts to ask…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

Flood relief benefits abound. And they’ll continue to do so for quite some time…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

The flooded Methodist church had to find a new location for its chicken pie supper. The St. Leo’s Catholic parish stepped up to help their neighbors…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

Even though it’s been flooded out of its Waterbury building, the Northfield Savings Bank is still sporting that “pigs fly” logo. The Vermont branch of the Retallick family is quite happy to bank with Northfield…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

The Alchemist is another family favorite. Especially with Cousin Tom, a remodeling contractor who has yet to see a surge of post-Irene business. Given Tom’s attention to detail and fine craftsmanship, it’s only a matter of time. Right now, he’s busy with other projects…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

If you’re open for business, you have to let people know. Otherwise, they’ll assume that you’re closed for repairs and keep on driving. With so many state workers missing from town, Waterbury businesses need customers any way they can get ’em…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

Gratitude on Main Street…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

And a farewell to a very unwelcome Vermont visitor…

Photo essays - Signs of recovery in Waterbury, Vermont

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