(Part 3 of a collaborative project by Ken Hall and Victor Salvo, commenting on the recovery from Irene in Vermont and raising awareness of Victor’s work with the ongoing earthquake recovery in Haiti. Part 1 is HERE; Part 2 is HERE. )
The force of the flood waters that tore through Vermont almost three weeks ago was, to say the least, impressive. Rocks the size of refrigerators were washed, pushed and hurled, along with propane tanks, cars, and anything else in the way.
A number of towns were completely isolated when bridges and roads washed away. “Washed” is a bit tame; concrete and steel structures were completely dismantled and destroyed by the raging, projectile-laden flood. The old joke “You can’t get there from here” was true enough before Irene but in her aftermath it was a rubble-strewn fact. The Town of Jamaica was one of those places.
Signs took on new meanings as “Stop Ahead” became “Stop NOW”, reinforced by dirt piles, compressors, scaffolding, along with anything else handy and not of critical use.
Within a short time, however, new routes appeared and even the mail was moving again (In Weston, mail appeared in our box every day after the storm). Say what you will about gigantic, bloated, bureaucracies like the US Postal Service, on a local level they usually work, due to the determination and dedication of employees and contractors far away from the morass of Washington, DC.
The road crews in every affected town put in long, dangerous hours, moving materials and fixing what they could.
Town water supplies were severely compromised by the storm and flood. In Jamaica, portable tanks of non-potable water were set up so people could at least flush their toilets (after hauling buckets of water back home).
(The city of Rutland is down to about two weeks of water for more than 18,000 residents after its storage reservoir and the pipe lines that serve it were damaged, just one of the effects of Irene that Vermont will be dealing with for some time to come.)
Emergency coordination efforts have been headquartered anywhere space has been available, such as the 3 Mtn Inn in Jamaica.
Rolodexes and old-fashioned check-lists have been brought back into play, and handshakes still seal deals.
FEMA representatives have been present, of course, doing what they can and putting a human face to a faceless bureaucracy.
They are very nice people, who wish they could do more, but at this point they are only able to make contact with as many people as possible and get the ball rolling for whoever they can.
The traffic these days is a bit different than normal.
Working through lunch is nothing out of the ordinary, even if the office is now an old inn.
There are many ways to say “Thank you.” A 30 pack of beer says it well to work crews just about anywhere.