Wow, who knew that reviewing The Valley Reporter’s September 1, 2011, issue, documenting the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene would still be so painful 10 years on.
Our community – and so many in Vermont – took such a devasting hit from the storm. Our neighbors in Hancock and Rochester were cut off from all sides for almost three full days, working with limited food, limited fuel for generators, limited cellphone service and limited medicine for the who needed it.
So many homes in Moretown and Waterbury flooded. It was heartbreaking to drive through Moretown and Waterbury and see people’s household belongings drying on their front yards in the sunny days that followed the storm.
So many businesses were damaged, not to mention roads, culverts and bridges. Who has forgotten that people were sheltering in place in the Moretown Elementary School when that building flooded too, requiring people to seek higher ground. And the people in Duxbury who had to run uphill to escape the Winooski?
But amid that devastation, neighbors rallied to help each other. As the water receded people came out to help. Initially, people came from Vermont and then they started coming from neighboring states and then from everywhere. Volunteers organized relief committees and set about accessing emergency relief funds. Donations poured into the Mad River Valley Community Fund which was able to pivot quickly and get help in the hands of those who needed it.
And in the aftermath, we learned that we are resilient and we do care deeply about each other and we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty and our boots muddy.
Tropical Storm Irene was considered a 500-year flood, as was the Flood of 1998. Two such storms in 13 years seems tame compared to the extreme weather events of 2021 alone. Importantly, after Tropical Storm Irene, we also learned that we can play an active role in our future storm and flood resiliency by how we manage stormwater, protect stream buffers and wetlands, size culverts and more. We’ve learned a lot and we continue to learn how to slow the flow of floodwaters into rivers.
It still hurts to remember how badly the storm damaged our community and Vermont.