A year ago, tropical storm Irene ravaged its way through the Green Mountains – an underestimated storm that came to us in horrid deluges. Gentle streams turned into raging torrents that carved through mountainsides, eroded entire stretch of highways and unleashed severe damage to unsuspecting communities.
When all was over, Vermonters found themselves in a situation most never thought possible. Weather is the norm here, and many people are used to it in a state surviving within the mountains and rivers of the north land. But Irene wasn’t an ordinary storm, and the aftermath was baffling.
Entire communities were isolated from one another and inaccessible. Buildings were flooded entirely, and left deluged underneath feet of river silt and mud. Businesses were destroyed and houses pushed off their foundations. Main Streets were waterways, below several feet of water, murky “ocean” type smells wafted pungently and heavily through the valleys. Vermonters stared in shock and surveyed the damage, as if they were emerging from a dark basement and squinting once the sun hit their eyes, trying to comprehend the strange reality that was now their home.
No one was sure what to do, but Vermonters being Vermonters, banded together, and helped our their neighbors in anyway they could. Soon, the information began to come in batched intervals. At least 250 miles of state roads were destroyed, as well as three dozen bridges, and countless miles of town roads had all been washed away or severely damaged. Rescue workers and state road crews were trapped, not being able to get to where they were needed. Four people were reported dead.
Today, tropical storm Irene seems like a memory to a lot of people, as most of our highways have been rebuilt and most communities are slowly coming back to life. But the sad truth is, the state is still suffering from the damages of Irene – and it’s a sore subject. Either you lived in an area that received minimal damage, or just the opposite, which stirred a bit of confusion (if not curiosity) for many Vermonters. You heard about the town next door getting nailed, but 6 miles down the road there was no damage to be seen.
But thankfully, life around here is almost back to normal (almost), but Irene’s scars will forever mar the landscape – a reminder to future generations that it can happen here.
Apart from the Browns River Bridge in Shrewsbury, these photos were taken on the stretch of Route 4 between Sherburne Pass in Killington and Woodstock Village. Unfortunately for everyone, I had a bit of a HDR obsession around 2011, yielding some embarrassing photos taken by yours truly, but these photos are also important, they document one of the greatest natural disasters in our state’s history, so for that reason alone, I’m not completely deleting them.
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