Vermont begins recovery from severe Irene flooding
Two days after Hurricane Irene sent as much as 12 inches of rain and flash floods coursing through the Green Mountain state, Vermonters set about the work of digging out as federal officials arrived to survey the damage and bring aid to more than a dozen towns that were still isolated across the state.
Bulldozers and dump trucks fanned out across the state under a brilliant blue sky Tuesday to clear away the trees, propane tanks and debris that had been dragged down the state’s rivers and tributaries during the weekend’s flash floods. Trucks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived Monday to assist those affected by the storm.
Utility officials had made progress, restoring power to 30,000 households after the storm rolled through Sunday, but 20,000 households were still without power, and some areas, including parts of Woodstock, were without running water.
One of the biggest problems was the widespread damage to roads. About 500 workers were beginning to repair about 200 roads that were impassable because of collapsed bridges and gaping sinkholes that in some instances stretched the length of several cars.
State workers were bringing food and water by helicopter to the communities cut off by road damage.
Vermont, like many others across the Eastern Seaboard, was declared a disaster area by President Obama, meaning that communities will be eligible for up to 75% of infrastructure repairs. But many whose homes were damaged were discovering the limits of flood insurance or the repercussions of not having insurance.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday was visiting Brattleboro, Wilmington and Ludlow with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
It was unclear whether Obama will visit the storm-damaged areas. “There’s still a response focus in some states, and now a recovery focus,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday when asked about the president’s plans. “The president, working with the FEMA administrator and other members of his team, [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano and others, is primarily focused on that. If we have a scheduling update to make, we’ll let you know.”
-- Maeve Reston in Woodstock, Vt.
Photo: Lindsey Jones makes her way down floodwater-damaged Route 4 in Woodstock, Vt., on Monday. Credit: AP / Valley News / Polina Yamshchikov