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On August 28, 2011 Tropical Storm Irene struck Vermont causing millions of dollars worth of devastation and destruction in it's wake. The Valley Reporter has been documenting Irene's effects from the torrential flooding to the rebuilding of communities and lives. Irene may have caused massive destruction but it also brought communities together in a way that no other event could. From the crushing flood waters we all found that We Are Vermont Strong.
A year after Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont and the Mad River Valley, many of those affected by the storm are back in their homes and many businesses have re-opened. Many people are just moving back into their homes after a long year of cleaning and dealing with insurance, FEMA and reconstruction.
Roads and bridges have been repaired. Moretown, which was very hard hit by the storm, has re-opened its school, post office and two churches in the village that were flooded. The Moretown town clerk’s office remains closed and its fate is uncertain.
Waitsfield’s Bridge Street has undergone much change since the flooding, with several new businesses and several that did not re-open and one that relocated.
Warren’s Pitcher Inn has cleaned up, rebuilt and re-opened and several people in The Valley are awaiting word on whether their properties will be subject to FEMA buyouts.
August 28 marks the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene which dealt The Valley and Vermont a devastating blow. The rain fell all day Sunday, increasing in volume in the afternoon leading to severe flooding in Warren, Waitsfield, Moretown, Duxbury and Waterbury.
The flooding from Irene rivaled or surpassed the flood of 1927 depending on which gauges were consulted. Flood stage at the Moretown gauge of the MadRiver is 9 feet. On August 28, 2011, the water crested at 19.06 feet which is just shy of the 19.4 feet in 1927. Some reports have the bridge cresting one-eighth of an inch higher than 1927.
Over two dozen homes and buildings were severely damaged (one destroyed) in Moretown. A home at the bottom of North Fayston Road in Waitsfield was destroyed. Homes and businesses on Bridge Street in Waitsfield were inundated with water and badly damaged. A Warren home was flooded as was the basement of The Pitcher Inn in WarrenVillage.
Both Waitsfield and Warren’s covered bridges were damaged and closed.
The bridge on Route 100B leading into MoretownVillage was closed as was a bridge north of MoretownVillage. German Flats Road turned into a deep gully at the FaystonElementary School. Huge swaths of Route 100 were gone from Waitsfield to Warren and even larger swaths of Route 100 were missing from Warren to Granville to Hancock and further to the south.
The flooding spurred a massive volunteer cleanup and the rebuilding efforts that continue today. Many, many people and businesses in the community were aided by help from the Mad River Valley Community Fund.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will visit communities hard hit by Tropical Storm Irene on Sunday, August 26, and Tuesday, August 28.
He will be at the Town Hall in Granville at noon and will head to Hancock for a 1 p.m. event at the intersection of Routes 100 and 125 where the bridge and road were washed out.
On Tuesday, August 28, the governor will be at the Moretown Post Office at 10 a.m. and at the Waitsfield covered bridge at 11 a.m.
Mad RiverValley ‘Vermont Strong’ Bridge Street block party is September 8
On September 8, from 3 to 10 p.m., all are invited to converge on Bridge Street in Waitsfield for a block party to celebrate community resilience, post-Irene. Bridge Street, home of Vermont’s oldest still-in-use covered bridge, will be closed to traffic to allow several local bands, community organizations and food vendors to create a festive event where everyone is welcome.
“The community in the MadRiver watershed has done an amazing job of mobilizing volunteers and donations to recover from Irene. It’ll be great to celebrate together on Bridge Street,” said Asah Rowles, board chair of Mad River Flood Recovery. “But we also recognize the need to increase self-reliance and make our voices heard on global issues that impact everyone, and we still have a lot of work to do.”
The event will feature local food and local music from White Zinfandel, Last October, The Gulch Band, Tim Holter and friends, Phineas Gage Project and Sugar Shack. Community-focused nonprofits and displays will focus on flood recovery and ongoing community projects, with kids’ activities from 3 to 6 p.m.
The MRV Rotary Club will announce their Person of the Year award to flood relief volunteers. Attendees will be invited to sign the Earth Charter from www.earthcharterinaction.org which will be presented to state representatives as a means to connect and have a voice regarding community resiliency and sustainability actions.
The event is sponsored by 1% for the Planet, the MRV Rotary Club, HigherMind Mediaworks, MRV Business Builders, Sperry Tents, Hartigan Septic, Deerfield Designs, SunCommon and Waitsfield’s Masonic Lodge, along with dozens of volunteers working to organize logistics and entertainment donated by local musicians.
The ravages of Irene on Hancock, Granville and Rochester roads are almost complete. The storm did major damage to major town roads in the White River Valley, some of which has been repaired, some of which is currently under construction and some of which faces an uncertain future.
Cheryl Sergeant, chair of the Granville Select Board, said that Buffalo Farm Road is still closed due to three slides and said that the town is awaiting (and has been awaiting for many weeks) an engineering report on a proposed fix.
The report is so late, she said, that the town had to request an extension from FEMA.
“We still have no idea what our options are going to be to fix it and have no idea of the cost and we don’t know how it will be funded and if voters are going to want to fix it,” Sergeant said.
Buffalo Farm Road runs east from Route 100 in Granville and connects to North Hollow Road. Right now residents have access above and below the closed sections of the road.
“We don’t know what the delay is in getting that report to us, but we do know that nothing is going to happen on that road this year,” she said.
Granville has three properties that are waiting for FEMA buyout decisions and the town took out a line of credit to cover road repair and other costs associated with the flooding. In Granville, the town will ring the bell at the town complex at 7 p.m. on August 28 to commemorate the storm and flooding.
In Hancock, select board chair Jack Ross said that the upper part of Churchville Road, which runs from Route 100 to Fiske Road, had been re-opened last weekend but was closed this week so that the bridge at the bottom of the road could be fixed. Churchville Road suffered extreme damage during Irene, along with TexasFalls roads and others Hancock roads. Repairs to Churchville Road alone cost over $750,000, Ross said.
And while the town received FEMA funding for some of the repairs, there were other repairs that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required the town to undertake that cost the town $115,000. That is a significant sum for a town where the municipal budget is about $300,000, according to Ross. The town is currently out of pocket $300,000 for flood repairs pending state and federal reimbursement.
Hancock residents will commemorate the storm and flood with a community cookout on September 2 at the Hancock Firehouse from 5 to 7 p.m.
In Rochester repairs to Fiske Road are about two weeks away, according to select board chair Larry Straus. Because of the damage to Fiske Road and Churchville Road, Hancock and Rochester worked with Granville last fall to upgrade a portion of a Class 4 road to provide a detour around the connected and closed Fiske and Churchville Roads.
Straus said that the Fiske Road work was covered by FEMA and cost $130,000.
Rochester’s out-of-pocket costs from the flood, based on the formula approved by the Legislature, is 3 cents on the town Grand List, or about $47,000.
With Fiske Road work under way, Straus said the town was turning to its other projects including repair of the town cemetery, which washed away, littering the road and riverbanks with caskets and remains during the storm.
In Rochester, there are five or six homes that may be eligible for FEMA buyouts.
Community members are invited to a celebration to recognize the anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene in Moretown at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 25. The celebration starts with a dedication of the 7 Standing Stones garden in the Strauss floodplain behind the Moretown Library. The stones are foundation stones from the former Moretown Masonic Lodge that were erected on the site of the memorial garden created by Caroline and Roger Strauss in the location where their backyard oasis was washed away by Irene.
All are welcome to stroll the gardens, enjoy the party, participate in a duck race, then float or stroll down to the Moretown Fire Department for a Moretown Ladies Auxiliary pig and trash can turkey roast. Dinners, activities, games and music will be featured.
On Sunday, August 26, at 10:30 a.m., the MoretownMethodistChurch will hold a special service in honor of August 28, 2011, with a theme of “Goodnight Irene, Hello Tomorrow” featuring well-known musicians performing special music. Among the performers will be The Gospel Choir of Montpelier, Elizabeth von Trapp, George Woodard, congregants, Moretown residents and others.