Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Sunday was my birthday and I have so much to be thankful for.  My brother and sister-in-law called that morning and we had a fun morning chat full of laughs and stories. Then my mother called and instead of her usual practiced voice song, she spent all morning in her house finding the right size glasses, filling them with just the right amount of water until getting each musical note just right. And then she practiced and perfected the Happy Birthday song with a spoon tapping each glass.  She played this for me over the phone and I was astounded - delighted - tickled.  She said she was up since 6am getting this all together.  Some special mom, eh?

Saturday Annie, Carol and I had a fantastic day of climbing on our nearby cliffs. It was the calm before the storm as we had been preparing for Hurricane Irene to arrive. She came and when she hit she did so with a powerful punch!  We were forecasted to get up to 7 inches of rain and 45-55 MPH sustained winds with higher gusts.  Here in southern VT the high winds never came. But the rain sure did and we measured well over 8 inches of rain in our rain gauge.

The wash out on Route 106 in Reading
On Monday morning the skies were crystal clear, bright blue and the sun shined like a spotlight upon the debris and horrific damage caused by the storm.  In our town the Twenty Mile stream raged past Main Street (Route 106) just barely north of the bridge and instead of destroying the bridge it was diverted by large debris (mostly trees I think) and tossed the asphalt pavement around like child's building block toys.   Near its path were several houses, none of which were swept away or ruined but were badly flooded.  A good friend whose home is on the south side of the torrent was away on vacation.  Her house was cut off from assistance until Tuesday when a local community member volunteered his own time and equipment to dam the stream. He redirected the flow back under the bridge, then filled in enough stone and gravel that we could walk across to Heather's house.  (She was driving frantically home from her vacation in Kentucky). The damage to her place is disheartening.  The water punched a hole in the side of the foundation and ripped through the basement carrying debris and tons of river sand and silt. Unfortunately, as a result this some of her furnace fuel oil leaked or spilled.  The house in inhabitable until professional advice is received on proper removal or cleanup of the hazardous waste.  (Hopefully when power is restored the main breaker is off!)  Her dogs were all rescued by the folks looking after them while she was away (before the storm hit they were evacuated) and the cats who were left to their own devices with plenty of food and water on the second floor needed to be evacuated once we gained access to the house and smelled the fuel.

The construction crews are making great progress on Route 106 and soon we should be able to drive out of town to the south again.  Everyone who resides near the stream or lies low is still busy pumping out water, cleaning up river mud and repairing damages.  Of those affected, no one here who I have spoken to yet has flood insurance.  However, there is hope that FEMA funding may be able to help those people.  I remain hopeful, despite the horror stories I have heard on federal assistance funds getting to those in need after a disaster.

Helicopters are buzzing about the skies.  Large dump trucks are roaring to and fro with loads of fill dirt and gravel for road repair.  What is most different however, is the feeling around town and in the state.  Everyone wants to know how everyone else is doing and if they can help.  It brings us closer together. I am getting to know the names of people in my town I have never met before!  Most chip in where they can, although sometimes it is frustrating knowing who, where and how to help.  In our case, we are doing what we can to help Heather who is alone there and can use a few friends to assist in the cleanup.  She has a home-based business of doggy care, so getting her back to work and living in her own home is critical.  I can only imagine what it would feel like if it had been our home.  In times like these, it lends tremendous perspective.  We are lucky we suffered no real damage to our property and our town is lucky it fared better than places south of here, many who are still completely isolated and without power or water.  When we watch the impact of natural disasters, wartime refugees and epidemic disease on the news, we are often horrified and helpless.  The earthquake in Haiti. The BP oil "spill." Middle eastern and African conflicts driving refugees out of their countries.  The quake in Japan. But when disaster strikes YOU or those all around you, the impact is no longer surreal. Yup - lends perspective.
Heather's house swallowed in river mud

Up the road these folks now have nothing
 but boulders for a backyard.

I will be putting some video on YouTube including footage during the storm and publish here in the blog as well.

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