We have been following the raging floods that the remnants of Hurricane Irene brought to Vermont yesterday even as the national media have been virtually non-existent and continuing to report about storm damage (or not) in and around the major metropolitan areas on the east coast. My hometown, Woodstock, has been in the center of the flooding, but the entire southern half of the state has been inundated, with roads and bridges washed away, hundreds of houses and
businesses flooded, and now, believe it or not, water shortages. The amazing thing about this tragedy is that, outside of a few local outlets, the media is virtually non-existent in this area, and the information we are getting about the damage is from facebook, a great local blog, and word of mouth. The blog, the Woodstock Early Bird has been diligently covering the story, even talking to local authorities to keep the information flowing. The facebook group that was formed is call Vermont Flooding 2011, that now has dozens of photos, videos, and personal reports about the devastation.
The charm of northern New England is also one of its challenges; the region is heavily populated in small villages and towns along the rivers and streams, when those rivers overun their banks, which is very rare, the toll can be devastating. We are witnessing that devastation right now in real time. The Ottauquechee River, just below our house, on the west end of the Green, experienced rapidly rising waters yesterday morning that became a raging torrent about mid-day. We believe the river crested at around 18 feet above normal.
Dead River Propane, a business on the river, just upstream of the village, was flooded and around 200 propane tanks, some huge, were swept into the river releasing propane as they floated through the village. The tanks piled up in Quechee Gorge, and small canyon just east of Woodstock. The propane release was so large that police closed the bridge over the gorge fearing an explosion. The house below ours, right on the river, was evacuated as its basement was flooded and foundation threatened. The house was built around 1830. Another house, one that we actually rented for a while in the center of the village, was also severely flooded.
The story is the same all over Vermont. The local television station is now reporting that the Vermont State Trasnporation Agency is reporting that 260 roads have been washed out, not counting local streets and roads. The agency is estimating there are 300 road closures, double that of the closures from this year’s spring floods, which were, before yesterday, historic.
If there is anything good here, it’s that Vermonters are strong, independent folk. They are self reliant, and support one another. We will recover. this small planet will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.