A River Runs Through It
A first-hand account of Hurricane Irene from the perspective of a Vermont skier
By Erme Catino
QUECHEE, Vt. — C’mon Irene… did you really need to hit Vermonters this hard?
The news was hard to miss, Tropical Storm Irene rather than scooting up the New England coast like a Nor’easter, made landfall in Long Island, New York, and Connecticut. It then made a b-line North wreaking havoc in the Green Mountain State of Vermont. Like most Vermonters, I stocked up on milk, bread, and water, though I was ill prepared when the Fire Marshall knocked on the door of my Central Vermont home warning my wife and me to evacuate. We were lucky, and traveled across the now demolished covered bridge in the center of town, our house dry and unaffected. Though much of Vermont was not as fortunate.
Up and down the spine of the Green Mountains, where most Vermont ski resorts lie, mountain villages were inundated with heavy rain from the storm. In what seemed like minutes, rivers swelled and engulfed town centers. I couldn’t believe my eyes as dumpsters, propane tanks, and trees charged downstream crashing into historic bridges and buildings.
The damage goes beyond collapsed base lodges at ski resorts. Bridges and roads leading to these small towns were devastated, abandoning these communities. As of Tuesday night, 12 Vermont towns are still isolated without power, and are receiving aid from The National Guard and FEMA via ATVs and helicopters.
While much of the state is reeling from the storm, central and southern Vermont were hit the hardest. Many of these towns are gateways to the local ski resorts. With 80 million people within a days drive to Vermont’s mountains, these communities and resorts rely heavily on tourism. This past year, Vermont had it’s best season since 2004-05 in regards to skier visits with 4,365,906. These communities are the foundation of the local ski scene. Its residents work at the resorts and own businesses and farms that support the ski and tourism industry. They are where out-of-town skiers buy coffee or après snacks, where locals pick up their mail, and where everyone meets for a beer after a powder day.
Vermont is typically tucked away from the outside world with its small towns and rolling hills. The present view of the affected areas is a somber one. Reports keep streaming in via various news sources. Tuesday night VPR held a live newscast where Vermonters could learn and share information regarding road closures and openings. It is the state’s hope to have some form of road access to all towns by tomorrow, and with many people stranded including 400 at Killington Resort, relief can’t come soon enough.
It goes without saying that the rebuilding process will be costly and time consuming. Though Vermonters are a hardy group. We are used to shitty weather, with sub-zero temperatures and howling winds. Many are already banding together.
The aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont has barely begun, though we can only hope for a quick recovery and future ski memories in quintessential Vermont towns for this season and many more to come.
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