Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irene, What Have You Done?

It has taken me a week to get to the point where I could write this.  It's been hard to focus for any length of time--my head has been spinning.
One week ago tonight Richard and I were sitting in the dark, due to a power outage caused by Hurricane Irene turned Tropical Storm Irene.  We knew in advance that we would get the storm.  We knew that Vermont would be just to the west of the eye of the storm, which meant that we would get more rain than wind.  We expected to lose power.  What we didn't expect was the incredible devastation to huge portions of the state of Vermont.  After all, it was only a tropical storm and it should have lost much of it's strength as it traveled so far inland.  We certainly didn't expect flooding.  For Heaven's sake, we live on a mountain.

As you can tell from my last blog entry, I was expecting our area to be inconvenienced with heavy rain and brief power outages and I was ready.  Boy, was I wrong!

Richard and I spent the day reading the Sunday newspapers, watching TV, working on our computers, and shaking our heads at how heavy the rain was...but we've seen full days of heavy rain here before.  The power went out a few times during the day, but came back within a couple of minutes each time.  The news said it was a "non-event" in New York City, so we thought that by the time it hit here, it would be very weak.  We were thinking that we've had snowstorms much worse than this.

Around 3:30 that afternoon we spoke to our friend, Vito, who gave us shocking news.  The house down the road from us, about 1/4 mile away, had been washed away.  WHAT????  We thought we had misunderstood him.  No, we hadn't.  In fact, Route 4 in front of that house-now-gone was also washed away for about 200 yards.  Route 4 is the major East-West highway in Vermont.  You've heard the old Yankee expression, "You can't get there from here?"  Well, we're living it now.

This is the house that was washed away.  I believe it was the oldest house in Killington, VT.  This photo comes from my friend Regina's Facebook page and was taken a couple of hours before I got there.  Notice the water rushing all around the house.  It's coming from the right of the house.  The only good thing I can say about this is that the house was for sale and unoccupied.

We lost our power for good at about 4 PM.  At about 4:30 Richard and I got into the car and drove down Route 4 to see for ourselves what had happened, because we just couldn't visualize it.  What I saw was almost beyond description.  There were cars parked all over the road, but it didn't matter where you parked because there was no traffic flow to block.  What used to be a house with a tiny mountain stream behind it was now an empty lot engulfed by a raging 30-foot wide river.  There wasn't even a foundation.  We couldn't see where the remains of the house had gone.  Amazingly, the church across the street was still there, untouched by the raging water.  In fact, the visibility was too bad to see what was down the road in front of us in the area called Sherburne Flats.  There should have been a couple of houses, the Kokopelli Inn, Goodro's Lumber, The Water Wheel General Store, Hemingway's Restaurant, and The Pasta Pot.  We didn't know if any of them were still there.  The "river" was rushing from the right of the road, from behind where the house used to be.  It seemed to be roaring down from a high cliff behind the house.  It crossed the road-that-was-no-more and turned the corner onto River Road, taking that road with it, too.  We couldn't see the rest of River Road either, but we heard that other houses were gone.  It was too dangerous to get any closer.

I took this photo with my cell phone.  I didn't have my glasses with me, so I couldn't see what I was doing.  Route 4 is in front of the woman.  River Road intersects with it on the left.  What you can't see here is the water roaring down from what appeared to be a high cliff behind the missing house.  Richard said it looked like the Colorado River.

We drove home and sat in the dark, with candles lit, absolutely stunned.  We wondered if there were other houses and roads washed away.  We had no power, no phone, no internet, no cable, and Richard's cell phone was acting up.  My cell phone was working, but we wanted to save the battery in case things got worse.  We did try to reach Paulette and Richie in Pittsfield, but couldn't get through to them.  We found out later that they lost 15 feet from their back yard, but their house was OK and they were safe.  Our neighbor, Kay, stopped in for a while and we had sandwiches for dinner.  We went to bed early because it was too dark to read.

The next morning we got up to a beautiful, sunny day.  Still no power.  Richard is an early riser, so he had already driven up the hill and found that nothing was open...not the markets, or the bakery, or any restaurants.  He said the roads he saw were kind of chewed up and undermined along the edges in places, but nothing was as bad as what we had seen on Route 4.  Vito and Susan made coffee for him on their camping stove.  After I got up we drove down to Route 4 again to get a better look.  This time I brought my glasses and a real camera.

This is the lot of land in Killington where the house used to be.  You can see the "For Sale" sign still standing and the rocks, boulders, and tree parts that were washed down from the mountain.  It almost looks like a beaver dam, but it isn't.  What you can't see is the water, which is still flowing very strongly behind the debris.  It was running across and under the heaved-up asphalt where both roads used to be.

The first thing that I noticed was that there was no cliff behind where the house used to be.  It must have been the sheer power of the water that made it appear that it was coming from a high cliff on Sunday.  We could now see that the businesses below us were still standing, but we had no way of knowing what condition they were in.  The water was still flowing heavily down River Road and under the first house.

You can't get a good look at the water in this photo, but you can see the eroded yard on the right.  Believe me when I tell you, the water was rushing onto this property where the yard used to be and underneath the house.  It's amazing that this house survived.  It isn't possible to tell from the road what kind of internal damage occurred. What you see on the left side of the photo is what remained of  River Road, which is paved underneath the rocks and dirt.  River Road is very important because the Killington Town Hall, Library, Recreation Center, and Transfer Station are there.

This is the view of the intersection of River Road and Route 4 on Monday morning.  You can see that the water is still flowing freely down the highway.  You can also see the edge of the road where it's washed away.  The pavement was nothing more than an overhang for a couple of feet along the edge , so it was dangerous to get too close.  The building in the background is The Kokopelli Inn, which is still standing, but took a lot of damage.

In this photo you can get a better look at the boulders and trees that were washed down the mountain along with the water.  The two-layered white sign on the left of the photo says that it is River Road and points to the Killington Town Offices.  The building you see in the background is Goodro's Lumber, which is on Route 4.

We found out on Monday that Route 4 in Mendon was also washed out, as was Route 100 toward Pittsfield.  Those are the only roads out of Killington, so we were prisoners in our own town.  The rumors were flying, and there was a good possibility that we could be stuck in town for weeks with no power.

On Monday afternoon, Craig Mosher of Mosher Excavation, brought his heavy equipment and workers up from the Sherburne Flats, where his business is located.  They began diverting the flowing water back to its natural path, which is beside Route 4.  I won't go into the details, but it took an amazing amount of work.   They also began moving the broken pavement out of the way; they filled in the gulf where the road was washed away by using the boulders and dirt that had washed down the mountain.  By the next day the road was safe for emergency vehicles.  That's astounding!

It's amazing how much progress had already been made by Monday afternoon.  The buckled asphalt was pushed out of the way and the top of River Road was filled in with boulders and dirt.  Notice the River Road sign in the center.  It's the same sign you see in the photo just above this one.

CVPS, our power company, sent ATV's from Rutland through the woods of Mendon and into Killington to restore power around 1 PM on Monday to the part of town where the markets and most of the restaurants are located.  We were amazed that they had done it so quickly.  Our friends, Peter and Kathy, live in the neighborhood with restored power and invited us to shower and have hot dinners at their house.  With communications restored, we began to realize that there were other places in Vermont that were even more devastated than Killington. 

By Wednesday morning Route 4 toward Bridgewater and Woodstock was patched up enough to allow the tourists to leave, along with any locals who wanted to get out of town.  The catch was that there was no way to return.

We finally got our power back on Thursday around 5 PM and cable/internet/phone service was restored on Friday afternoon.  Richard and I feel very blessed because we had no real damage to our house or property and we had good friends helping us out when we had no power.

We now know that our neighboring Pittsfield lost several houses.  Our friends, Richie and Paulette, took in a dog that was rescued from a mobile home that had been washed away.  Two men literally had to swim to reach the home.  The dog's owner had gone to the next town during the storm and couldn't get back home.

We live in the mountains.  Nobody has flood insurance here.  It's just heartbreaking to hear about the damage and loss of property.

Tonight we are having thunderstorms and it is expected to rain for the next few days, with predictions of flash floods. Our ground is already saturated and our rivers still swollen. I pray that there is no more damage from this new weather.


This link is to a website that has photos taken from the ground and the air, starting from Waitsfield, VT, which is near the Sugarbush and Mad Riven Glen ski areas, then into Stockbridge, Pittsfield, Killington, and Bridgewater.  There are also photos of Mendon where Route 4 washed away:

Here is another link to a site with photos taken from a Piper Cub.  All of the photos are labeled:

This link is to videos taken by the staff of the Rutland Herald, our daily newspaper:!/photo.php?v=1959164467732&set=vb.58365611478&type=2&permPage=1


Last night we had very heavy rain all night long, but as far as we know, this rain didn't cause any other destruction.  We're still looking at more rain and flash-flood warnings for the next couple of days.


It rained off and on all day yesterday, but it was just ordinary showers.  Overnight the rain got very heavy again, but we haven't heard of any further damage to the roads or people's property.  The best news is that the flash-flood warnings are over, at least for now.  We even saw the sun peak through for a little while today, although we expect more showers later today.  They say rain all day tomorrow.  I guess rain is heavier than showers.  The forecast for Thursday is light rain all day.


It's been raining steadily since last night and much of the time it has been very heavy.  We're still not hearing about any new problems, which is wonderful.  I saw a bunch of National Guardsmen outside the Killington Deli this afternoon.  It was about 55 degrees and raining and the poor guys were sitting at the covered picnic bench eating lunch. 


This is the 11th day since the storm.  I can't believe so much time has gone by already.  The rain finally stopped so for now, we don't have to worry about more damage.


For the latest updates on road conditions, transportation, food and supplies, prescriptions, and lots of other information, go to: