Tropical Storm Irene

 As the water flowed downhill from the mountains, it picked up speed and slammed into Rochester village like nothing anyone has ever seen. The worst damage was here in the Route 100 / White River Valley, which has mountains on east and west sides. Addison County, where I used to live, was untouched as was most of the northern part of the state. For five days we had no electricity, no water, no cell service (tower is in the church with no power), no land line, no mail service. The power station was completely demolished. Roads in every direction were closed due to bridge washouts. No way out. Some people had generators but ran out of fuel within hours. On the north end of town a little bubbling brook rose up and flooded several homes and businesses, and one house belonging to a friend of mine totally collapsed like a deck of cards. Her husband nearly went with it. At the south end of town, the brook that runs through the cemetery took out 30 coffins, washing them down the White River. It was announced at our town meeting last night (we've had one every day) that the search for body parts was over but that some would inevitably turn up In the future. A retired dentist is doing body identification through dental records. The brook also took out the big steel bridge at Route 73 - looks like a bomb hit it -isolating the people who live between it and the next bridge that was knocked out. We now have a foot bridge, so people are parking on the west side and walking across the bridge to town to get their necessities -a scary venture. The entire area is a sea of mud and rocks -looks like a war zone. Yesterday I saw a line of about 15 people walking shoulder to shoulder, combing the area for bones and a German Sheppard ran back and forth sniffing.

But there are some wonderful, heartwarming stories, too.

 The market gave away all its perishables on Monday. They allowed in two people at a time to shop - go with an employee who wrote down SKUs and prices on a clipboard, go to the "cashier" who totaled up the purchases with a hand calculator and pay cash -all by flashlight. The guys who own the Huntington House pulled everything out of their chiller and then their freezer, set up donated grills, put tables and chairs on the side lawn (where our wedding reception was) and cooked up meals for anybody and everybody all week -beautiful weather. Sandwiches were served at the church 24/7 and in a couple of days they got a generator to the school where we served three meals a day to the homeless and to all the workers who have flooded into our area. I worked there several days and it was an amazing scene -everyone civil and polite. A far cry from the mess in Miami after Hurricane Andrew, where people were ignored for many, many days while FEMA twiddled its thumbs. The couple that owns a blueberry farm just north of town had a bad year so the five freezers they normally fill to sell over the winter were empty. They took the food from our big freezer with the understanding that if someone needed it, they would give it away.

 We had helicopters evacuating people with medical problems, dialysis appointments, dropping supplies of food and water. Somehow they got prescriptions called into the hospital in Randolph and a guy drove to the crater where the road was impassable with the meds, walked down into it, up the other side and gave them to a person waiting there. The water spigot at the town office had a barrel beneath it that was chlorinated so those of us on wells could get drinking water. Meet your neighbors at the well - sort of like biblical times. On Wednesday, just three days after Sunday's storm, a fleet of 45 CVPS (Green Mountain Power) vehicles paraded into the valley over the temporary bridge in Hancock and went to every house, hooking up power to any that did not have flood damage. Everyone was out on the street clapping, screaming and sobbing. We had electricity back on Thursday (We had been told it would be weeks before power was restored and it certainly was believable). I'm crying as I write this -a heroic feat beyond belief. I am so very proud of our little state and its brave, hardworking people. There are huge piles of stuff in front of so many places and volunteers continue to roll in, shoveling, tossing. One hundred firefighters last Saturday, more this weekend. It's a mess here, but I wouldn't be anywhere else.

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