About mid-day today, Gracie and I took an arial tour of the Woodstock area, following the Ottauquechee, White, and Connecticut rivers during our flight. What struck us was the force of raging water and the damage it can do. Around Bethel and South Royalton, we saw large landslides that had occured in the bends of the rivers, taking out huge swathes of land and trees. We also saw many acres of ruined crops around the Bethel area. Quechee had a remarkable amount of silt in and around the green and Simon Pearce. We didn’t see any of the National Guard Blackhawk helicopters that had been a strong presence earlier in the week.
Everywhere we flew, though, there was an amazing amount of activity, even apparent from the air, with earth moving equipment, dump trucks, and people everywhere pitching in to clean up their particular area. Read the rest of this entry
This morning, I attended the daily town meeting at Woodstock, Vermont’s, town hall. There was a briefing from Eric Wegner, vice president of Woodstock Aqueduct Company, who announced that all of the town, with a couple of exceptions, now had water; Wegner, haggard from this weeks challenges of repairing the major water main breach in the Ottauquechee River, was pretty testy with the townsfolk, especially buesiness owners who must have reliable water in order to operate. Overall, though, the report was very positive. Phil Swanson, the town manager, spent most of the rest of the meeting briefing everyone about FEMA grant applications.
It’s clear that the town is really coming around, and, with the exception of badly damaged areas adjacent to the river, are looking normal. I spoke to the owner of Village Butchers yesterday; he was very upbeat, though he lost his entire inventory due to the power outage. He’s planning on opening this next Wednesday and said of the storm, “This happened forty years ago. This just gave us an opportunity to give the shop a good cleaning.” Vermonter can-do in action.
We’re doing an arial survey of the damaged areas west of Woodstock today. I’ll report on that this evening.
I arrived in Woodstock this morning and immediately beat feet down into the village take in the scene and understand current conditions. The great thing is that the village itself, ignoring the dozens of dump trucks rumbling by the Green, is relatively calm. Water is back on in a good number of houses, but repairs will be extensive. The devastation in the lower areas, especially close to the river. The house on Elm that we rented for a year was severely damaged. Workers were hauling mud out of the basement by the wheel barrow full, but the amazing thing is that the stone patio behind the house is gone, scattered throughout the yard. The retaining wall next to the river, a massive concrete structure, has been undermined and is threatening to fall into the river.
The water main crossing the river was severely damaged when the concrete spillway it ran through actually collapse during the flood. Tons of concrete broke up under the torrent of water, destroying the main in the process. The Woodstock Aqueduct Company somehow got into the river, installed a large gate valve on the broken pipe, and closed it so the system could be repressured. Here’s a video I shot of the repair:
We’re going to do a tour by air tomorrow. looking at the area between Woodstock and Killington, an area that was especially hard hit.
There have been two meetings the last 24 hours in Woodstock, a public town meeting last night and a Selectboard update meeting this morning. Last night the public got to see and hear from Eric Wegner, the vice president of Woodstock Aqueduct Company; he gave an update on status of the municipal water system. One pump is now apparently operable the the water company has begun searching out breaches in the system. It’s been reported to this small planet that a large breach, and maybe the one that drained the entire system is being investigated on Benson Place. A crew is excavativing now to get to a shut off valve to isolate that part of the system.
As many of you know, I’ve been working in the Denver area for the last year, requiring that I spend the vast majority of my time here. Being away from our home in Vermont this week has been especially painful, as I have followed all the events in Woodstock by video and digital communication with Miss Gracie, who is marooned there with no water and spotty electricity. Today, I’m finally headed to Vermont for a few days to see the damage for myself and lend a hand where I can. Over the Labor Day weekend, I’ll be reporting on the progress of recovery from the damage caused by Irene in Woodstock and the surrounding area. Read the rest of this entry