Irene in Vermont Roundup10:45 am - 09/01/2011
Flooding isolated entire towns in Vermont and New York, some communities warily watched swollen rivers and more than 2.5 million people from North Carolina to Maine lacked electricity Tuesday, three days after Hurricane Irene churned up the Eastern Seaboard.
The storm has been blamed for at least 40 deaths in 11 states.
When Hurricane Irene unleashed its wrath on Newfane, Vt., Martin and Sue Saylor were among the lucky ones. All they lost was the road to their hillside home, and their utilities.
The Saylors survived, but at a cost: Rivers of rainwater coursed down their hill, washing out the road that leads to their road. Just below their home deep in the woods, the Rock River rose up out of its banks, claiming another roadway.
Suddenly, the Saylors' feet became their sole transportation.
"Stranded, nowhere to go," said Martin Saylor, 57, standing by the Rock River on Monday, waiting for his brother to bring in supplies. "Don't want to leave my house because I don't know who's going to break in or whatever. I just don't know what to do."
The capricious storm, which veered into Vermont in its final hours, dumped up to 11 inches of rain in some places and turned placid little mountain streams into roaring brown torrents that smashed buildings, ripped homes from their foundation and washed out roads all across the state.
Some Vermont rivers still haven't reached their peak.
On Monday, the Otter Creek at Rutland was still more than three feet above flood stage, and meteorologist Andrew Loconto said projections are the river won't drop below flood stage until Wednesday.
At least three people died in Vermont.
Power outages were still widespread from north to south on Tuesday, with utilities from North Carolina to Maine reporting well over 2.5 million customers without electricity.
The 11-state death toll, which had stood at 21 as of Sunday night, rose sharply as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were electrocuted by downed power lines.
An apparently vacant home exploded in an evacuated, flooded area in Pompton Lakes, N.J., early Monday, and firefighters had to battle the flames from a boat. In the Albany, N.Y., suburb of Guilderland, police rescued two people Monday after their car was swept away. Rescuers found them three hours later, clinging to trees along the swollen creek.
"It's going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude," President Barack Obama warned as he promised the government would do everything in its power to help people get back on their feet.
In North Carolina, where Irene blew ashore along the Outer Banks on Saturday before heading for New York and New England, 1,000 people were still in emergency shelters, awaiting word on their homes.
Airlines said it would be days before the thousands of passengers stranded by Irene find their way home. Amtrak service was still out Tuesday between Philadelphia and New York, one of the most heavily traveled parts of the nation's passenger rail system. Some Amtrak trains between New York City and Boston and between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Commuter train service between New Jersey and New York City resumed Tuesday, except for one line that was still dealing with flooding.
Throughout the region, hundreds of roads were impassable because of flooding or fallen trees, and some bridges had simply given way, including a 156-year-old hand-hewn, wooden covered bridge across Schoharie Creek in Blenheim, N.Y.
At least three towns in New York remained cut off by flooded roads and bridges.
Early estimates put Irene's damage at $7 billion to $10 billion, much smaller than the impact of monster storms such as Hurricane Katrina, which did more than $100 billion in damage. Irene's effects are small compared to the overall U.S. economy, which produces about $14 trillion worth of goods and services every year.
While people without electric power waited for the lights to come back on and communities from New York to Maine took stock of the storm, homeowners and towns in land-locked Vermont faced a sobering new reality — no way in or out. Washed-out roads and bridges left them — for now — inaccessible by automobile.
"We always had that truism that said 'Yup, yah can't get there from here.' In fact, that's come to pass down here," said Newfane Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli. "There are certain pockets where you can't get there from here, at least not by a car."
About a dozen towns and an unknown number of homes were cut off by damage from Irene's floodwaters and rain, including that of the town's emergency management coordinator, David Moore. State transportation maintenance crews and contractors hired by the state were working to restore travel on some of the 260 roads that had been closed due to storm damage. Vermont also had 30 highway bridges closed.
In small Newfane (pop. 1,710), the storm's effects were staggering: About 150 people were unable to drive cars to their homes, 30 of them effectively stranded in theirs, seven bridges were washed out, two homes were knocked from their foundations by surging floodwaters and one 19th century grist mill smashed into kindling wood right where it stood.
Gov. Peter Shumlin called it the worst flooding in a century.
For the Saylors, there were more immediate concerns.
"I need a shower," said Sue Saylor. "I need water. I need electricity. It's rough." Source
30 Incredible Photos Of Irene’s Destruction In Vermont
Vermonters launch their own storm relief efforts Even as the American Red Cross, United Way, Vermont Emergency Management and others work to help hundreds of people devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, individual Vermonters are taking it upon themselves to initiate their own efforts to aid the storm’s victims. Todd Bailey was in Waterbury on Wednesday afternoon, helping a friend on Randall Street tear out the sheetrock on the first floor of his house below the height of 44 inches, where the flood waters reached. At the same time, Bailey, 40, was finalizing plans to help the small businesses across the state devastated by Irene with his Vt Irene Flood Relief Fund.
Bailey, 40, an associate at KSE Partners in Montpelier, a lobbying firm, said he started the fund because he believes there is a “hole in relief efforts” that small businesses are slipping through.
“Doing this type of fundraising through this fund seems like the best way to fill the gap and help Vermont businesses also in great need as a result of the disaster,” Bailey said. “It’s about getting the entire state back on its feet, getting people back to work and businesses open.”
Bailey is working with the Central Vermont Community Action Council, which has its main office in Berlin, as his fiscal agent for the fund, which he said is a 501 c3, making donations tax deductible. Barbara Dozetos of Above the Fold in Williston, a social media management agency, is donating her time to put together a website for the fund at www.vtirenefund.org, which she believed would be up and running today.
In Burlington, Sarah Waterman launched vtresponse.com in response to Irene, which brings together people who want to help with people who need help. Waterman, 27, spent three months in Biloxi, Miss., in 2005, helping the people there dig out from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” Waterman said Wednesday. “It changed my life entirely, I just didn’t know it at the time.” Waterman said she is not raising money for victims of the storm, just help.
“There are plenty of people who are great at raising money, and I applaud them, but I don’t want anything to do with that,” she said. “I just want to be a clearinghouse for information, updated as fast as I can type, up to the minute.”
Vtresponse.com had 8,000 hits Monday, Waterman said, and nearly 30,000 hits by Tuesday.
“The bottom line is there are people who need help, and we have a really strong community that wants to help,” Waterman said.
Sarah Durant of Independent Vermont Clothing, headquartered in Rochester, one of the hardest hit communities, is doing her part with a special T-shirt sporting the message, “I’m with VT+” over an outline of the state. Durant said Tuesday that her company is taking pre-orders for the T-shirts at independentvermontclothing.bigcartel.com,
Durant and her brother grew up in Rochester, where her mother still lives, but she now lives in Dover, N.H., and her brother lives in Washington, D.C. No matter how far they roam, however, Durant said Rochester will always be their home.
Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history, and analysts said that much of the damage might not be covered by insurance because it was caused not by winds but by flooding, which is excluded from many standard policies. Industry estimates put the cost of the storm at $7 billion to $10 billion, largely because the hurricane pummeled an unusually wide area of the East Coast. Beyond deadly flooding that caused havoc in upstate New York and Vermont, the hurricane flooded cotton and tobacco crops in North Carolina, temporarily halted shellfish harvesting in Chesapeake Bay, sapped power and kept commuters from their jobs in the New York metropolitan area and pushed tourists off Atlantic beaches in the peak of summer.
While insurers have typically covered about half of the total losses in past storms, they might end up covering less than 40 percent of the costs associated with Hurricane Irene, according to an analysis by the Kinetic Analysis Corporation. That is partly because so much damage was caused by flooding, and it is unclear how many damaged homes have flood insurance, and partly because deductibles have risen steeply in coastal areas in recent years, requiring some homeowners to cover $4,000 worth of damages or more before insurers pick up the loss.
This could make it harder for many stricken homeowners to rebuild, and could dampen any short-term boost to the construction industry that typically accompanies major storms, Jan Vermeiren, the chief executive of Kinetic Analysis, said in an interview.
“Especially now that the economy is tight, and people don’t have money sitting around, local governments are broke, and maybe people can’t even get loans from the banks,” Mr. Vermeiren said.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut sought expedited disaster declarations from the federal government on Tuesday, which would pave the way for more federal aid. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York wrote President Obama that he had seen “hundreds of private homes either destroyed or with major damage and an enormous amount of public infrastructure damage.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wrote the president that “immediate federal assistance is needed now to give New Jersey’s residents a helping hand at an emotionally and financially devastating time.”
Flooding and widespread power failures tied to the storm continued to affect tens of thousands of people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday. And rivers and inland streams were still rising in New Jersey and Connecticut, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homeowners.
“I think this is going to end up being a bigger event than people think it is,” Connecticut’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, said at a news conference. He added: “All of this is massive in scope. What the final dollar amount is, I don’t know.”
Officials in states up and down the Eastern Seaboard said that it was far too early to tally up the damage, and that they were still focused on clearing debris, restoring power, trying to reopen flooded roads and bridges, and, in some areas, helping stranded people.
In southern Vermont, the National Guard airlifted food, water and other supplies on Tuesday to hundreds of people who were stranded in 13 towns that have been cut off by floodwaters since Sunday. Mark Bosma, a spokesman for the Vermont Division of Emergency Management, said most of the isolated towns had no electricity and none had potable water because floodwaters had overwhelmed local sewage and water treatment plants.
“I think it’s probably a very scary thing to not know when you can get out of town and to have a water system that’s not working and a general store that has run out of bottled water,” Mr. Bosma said. “People are extremely nervous about being isolated.”
More than 260 roads and 30 state bridges remained at least partly closed Tuesday because of the flooding, which in some areas remains a threat as larger rivers, like the Connecticut, are expected to continue rising until at least Wednesday as they gather runoff and flow from tributaries, officials said. In Mendon, a part of Route 4, the main east-west road through central Vermont, was swept away, as were 35 bridges, including at least four historic covered bridges, officials said. Four railroad bridges in the state are also unpassable, and Amtrak announced that it had suspended train service indefinitely on its Vermont routes.
“Some of the roads have literally washed away,” said Sue Minter, the state’s deputy transportation secretary.
Worried that the reports of the devastation could put off visitors as Vermont enters one of its prime tourist seasons — autumn always attracts legions of leaf peepers who come to gawk at foliage — the Vermont Chamber of Commerce opened a Facebook page, VisitVT, in which local inns and other businesses could leave posts explaining whether they were open or damaged.
“While some are devastated, some are not,” said Betsy Bishop, the chamber’s president.
In Delaware, where the popular beaches like Rehoboth Beach were evacuated last weekend, shutting restaurants and emptying hotels, Gov. Jack Markell is urging people to come back for the Labor Day weekend — and to bring friends.
“What I’m saying is if you had planned to be at the beach last weekend, come back this weekend for Labor Day and bring somebody else,” he said in an interview. “We’ll try to even it out.”
Mr. Markell unveiled a rapid-response team on Tuesday to help small businesses cope with the fallout from the storm.
Exactly how much economic activity was lost to the storm is difficult to say. Airports were closed, Broadway theaters stayed dark, ballgames were called, commuters could not get to the office, businesses lost power, and big plants were flooded. And how much economic activity will be generated by the cleanup and rebuilding efforts is hard to pinpoint. But economists are beginning to make educated guesses.
Frederick R. Treyz, the chief economist of Regional Economic Models Inc., did an analysis of the possible impact of the storm.
Assuming that direct damages totaled $7 billion, Dr. Treyz projected that the recovery would generate roughly 42,000 jobs — including construction workers, debris removers and the jobs that would be generated by the money they earned and spent elsewhere. But he calculated that one day’s business disruption across the affected region — a rough estimate that allows for some businesses that were not disrupted at all, and others that were disrupted for several days — would lead to losses that could cost roughly 62,000 jobs.
Ways to help-
Vt Irene Flood Relief
Mad River Valley Community Fund
United Way Vt 211
Op note- This experience is equal parts heart wrenching and warming. It's surreal to see aid helicopters flying over and emergency crews from FEMA and the Red Cross everywhere. The pictures and video just don't do justice to the sheer scale of the destruction. I know many people who are stranded, although most can now leave by foot. Power and internet were out for a long while yesterday and our water was back for a few hours but has since gone off again. Everyone is tired and a little dirty but for the most part tempers are staying in check. Let me say the excited buzz from everyone over the possibility of a Tide Truck is well earned.
The local elementary school is serving three meals a day for the community and restaurants are offering community buffets most nights. Our only grocery store was wiped out and they've taken every bit of stock not ruined in the flooding and moved it to the school to be taken as needed, free of charge. Neighbors have opened their wells and holding tanks and are going door to door to see if anyone needs help. Aid workers are constantly going to job sites only to find work already in progress. Things are bad, and I expect them to be for quite some time, but we're starting to get our stubborn boots on, which is probably the best thing we could do in the situation.
In closing- I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." --Calvin Coolidge after the 1927 flood