Vermont Is Devastated by Hurricane Irene: Deaths and Flooding Continue
By Ellen Cannon
One of the hardest hit state’s by Hurricane Irene is beautiful Vermont, the Green Mountain State. On Monday, Governor Peter Shumlin was touring the state in a National Guard helicopter with U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. According to Governor Shumlin, “We prepared for the worst and we got the worst in central and southern Vermont. (www/burlingtonfreepress.com, 8/29/11) Prior to the storm hitting Vermont on Sunday, Governor Shumlin signed the paperwork that would allow him to immediately authorize deployment of Vermont National Guard soldiers in the event of a disaster. Of great concern was the status of Vermont’s nuclear power plant owned and operated by Vermont Yankee. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was monitoring the situation.
The flood of 1927 caused great damage, and until Hurricane Irene, it was considered to be Vermont’s greatest natural disaster. Vermont Transportation Secretary, Brian Searles stated, “This is being compared to the flood of 1927. I think those comparisons are going to prove correct once we have tallied all the damage.” The storm began with very heavy rain on Sunday, starting in Southern Vermont. Large segments of downtown Brattleboro and Bennington were under water within a few hours. The storm then moved north leaving no section of Vermont untouched. (www.commondreams.org. 8/29/11) Speaking on Vermont Public Radio at 11:30 this morning, Mr.Searles, said, “That having drove from Burlington to Montpelier, the state capital, what I have seen is devastation. I have never seen a list of road closings like this- more than 260.” A road closing he said could refer to” a bridge washed out, flooding, mud, or wet water causing safety problems.” (Vermont Public Radio Interview, 11:30a.m. 8/29/11)
On Monday, President Obama declared Vermont a federal disaster area. The White House Issued a statement that stated, “The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA,to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures authorized by Title V on the Stafford Act, to save lives, and to protect the public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the State of Vermont.”
Craig Fugate, Administrator of FEMA named Craig A. Gilbert as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
By Monday, more than 50,000 homes and businesses remained without power. Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) said that it would be many days before electricity would be returned to its customers. Speaking for CVPS, Joe Kraus aid, “In many places, we cannot even get to the damage…Many areas are totally inaccessible, roads are gone, and in some cases it could take weeks. In areas we can reach it will take days to restore power.” (www.buringlingtonfreepress, 8/29/11)
By Monday, all state offices and schools were closed. The University of Vermont, Castleton State College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College were closed.
Killington Resort, reported on Facebook, that it has suffered damage throughout the ski area and mountain biking center. “Crews are out assessing damages to lodges, lifts, and roads.” Killington resort does plan to be ready and open for the 2011-12 ski season.
The death of 20 year old Ivana Taseva, from Macedonia, was among the tragedies claimed by Hurricane Irene. According to Wilmington Police Chief Szarejko, she drowned when she became trapped in a car that was swept away by the floodwaters of the Deerfield River. Ms. Taseva, was on a work program at the Mount Snow ski area in Dover. She worked as a member of its housekeeping staff. According to the Burlington Free Press, “She and her boyfriend and two other men came upon an area covered in water while driving on Sunday. They were unable to drive away, and the car began to be swept away by the floodwaters. Taseva and her boyfriend tried unsuccessfully to get to higher ground, and while the boyfriend was able to hold onto the car, she was swept away. All three men escaped without uninjured.”
Many areas of Vermont received more than 7.6 inches of rain on Sunday. Emergency officials are very concerned. Dave Mace, of the emergency operations team in Burlington said, “I think right now the three areas that we are most concerned about are Waterbury, Montpelier, and Rutland, not only because all three are significant population centers but sustained some flooding damage, but they are also locations of significant state office complexes and some of those have been affected by the flooding.” Dave Mace added, “Bridge inspectors, inspectors from the fire protection services and others will be fanning out across the state to assess the damage.” Also impacted by the floods, the was Vermont Emergency Management Office in Waterbury Vermont. The operations center relocated to FEMA offices in Burlington overnight. (www.vpr.net/news_detail/8/29/11)
The Red Cross has opened 11 shelters across Vermont. They are located in Barre, Bennington, Brattelbore, Bristol, Enosbburg, Hartford, Middlebury, Rutland, St. Albans, St. Johsbury, and Springfield. According to Doug Bishop of the Red Cross, “The gist of what we are trying to provide here is, basic food and shelter, make sure a warm dry place to be is here when people have been put out of their homes. I know there are instances other needs that have arisen. Speaking with our staff in Brattleboro, they make arrangements for oxygen tanks and oxygen machines to be brought in to help people who were evacuated from senior living. They connected hearing impaired with TTY services to make sure they could communicate. So all sorts of things crop up, but the basics, are our focus. We are trying to provide the initial stages of shelter and food.” (www.vpr.net/news_detail? 8/29/11
As of this afternoon, about 280 people were staying in shelters across Vermont.