Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene - An update from here.

Because we've been getting a lot of notes and calls asking about our post-Irene status, here's an update. The short answer is that we're all fine and we're feeling VERY lucky. For us where we are, Irene basically amounted to a very rainy Sunday, some wind - but mostly just wet. As far as our damage - it was limited to some small branches that came down, some debris in the pool (leaves, pine needles, twigs) and soggy bored dogs for the day.
The freezer stocked and hopefully well insulated.

I fully expected the worst and while we had planned a dog show last weekend I stocked up on supplies earlier in the week. With lots of frozen dog food in the old chest freezer, I was concerned about protecting the dog food in the event that we lost power for hours or days. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty freezer and will stay colder longer than a partially full or nearly empty freezer. An old 'florida' trick is to fill plastic bags with water and let them essentially form-freeze into any open spaces. Given my luck with ziplock bags (never once filled a ziplock bag with ice and come home to a dry cooler - all ziplock bags leak) I opted for three different sizes of water bottles - 8oz, 20oz and 1.5 liter. I was able to fill nearly every empty space in the freezer. Note that it takes water a lot longer than you'd think it would to freeze in a chest freezer - especially if you're freezing multiple bottles - a 1.5 liter bottle (Poland Spring) takes over two days to freeze solid in a chest freezer - smaller bottles obviously take less and the shape matters too. So time is of the essence. On Thursday morning, I removed everything I'd need between then and Sunday afternoon and moved those items into my house freezer - that gave my chest freezer 36 hours to freeze everything.

We skipped the full bathtub step of preparation because the last thing three water dogs need is there very-own indoor pool. We're on public water so we don't have a pump and in a pinch we could always flush using buckets of pool water. All of our agility equipment, pool toys, dog toys, etc all got tucked away in the garage in preparation for the storm. By and large though (and in hindsight) we luckily didn't need to use any of our plans (A, B, C or D).

Now for the bad news: here's the hydro-dam near my house. There's a lot of population downstream who are going to be affected by this water. Both along the Winooski river and when it drains into Lake Champlain and the St Lawrence River.

Lots of places in Vermont weren't so lucky as we were. For a huge portion of Vermont it's just as bad as you've seen on the news and possibly much worse now that the water is receding a little and the true extent of the damage is apparent. The bottom-line is that some classically beautiful New England places are utterly devastated. Quechee and Woodstock Vermont - meccas for fall tourists are largely impassable. Covered bridges that for many people represent quintessential New England and Vermont are completely gone or destroyed beyond repair. In the "Grand Canyon of the East" the Quechee Gorge there are some 200 propane tanks leaking gas and bobbing around in the turbulant's only a matter of time before there's an explosion.

The dam in drier days (Google Maps)
Also in Quechee, Simon Pearce a glass-blowing mill has been severely damaged. I don't know if they lost product, but handmade inventory is really hard to replace quickly, not to mention the folks now out of work in that community (the mill, the restaurant that is part of Simon Pearce's campus). Tourism is a huge part of that area - fall tourism in particular, it's really hard to see how they can recover if they loose the fall season and it's hard to imagine these places passable in the next several weeks or months - let alone open for business for tourists.

 Route 4 which runs East/West from White River Junction, VT to Fairhaven, VT is in large part gone. On the evening news tonight there are still 12 towns and communities that are completely cut-off from the outside world - no roads in, no roads out. Some are accessible by hiking or ATV - but still isolated. Killington Ski area is devastated, their baselodge has collapsed and the ski area is not accessible by road, Killington's sister resort Pico is similarly unreachable. Hundreds of vacation homes inaccessable - the extent of their damage probably won't be known for weeks when roads are repaired enough to get in there to make evaulations. Ludlow, VT at the base of Mt Ascutney has been all but destroyed.  Brattleboro, VT had several feet of rushing flood water from the Connecticut river running through the downtown business district.

Closer to me Richmond's bridge street was underwater. Several commuters had to be rescued - by boat - from the Richmond park and ride - just feet from I-89 in Richmond. State offices in Waterbury had several feet of water inside the agency of natural resources - the flooding is everywhere. State offices in our state capital of Montpelier are still underwater and offices are still closed.

Springfield Vermont:

There are many many many more communities affected in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York of course - Irene's wrath was indiscriminate - it's safe to say that recovery is going to take a long time - and a lot of people may never recover. We can handle blizzards and bitter cold up here in the sub arctic - water is punishing and unrelenting.


Flooding on rt4:

We're so lucky and so thankful here - and thinking of our fellow Vermonters who weren't so lucky.

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