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Where I live in VT there is only one paved road into and out of my little valley, plus a couple dirt roads within the valley such as the one I live on that mostly stay within the valley. I was still working down in MA and when I went to head back down there Sunday afternoon I found the paved road was flooded in both directions. I knew better than to try and weave my way out via the dirt roads so I sent my boss a message saying I’d leave about 6AM and would be in about 8:30 because I needed to go home first (in MA) before coming into the office. My normal 2 hour 105 mile drive ended up taking me 6 hours and over 200 miles. I’m on the Western side of VT and needed to get to the East side and there literally were no roads open. I’d get so far and a bridge would be washed out or a road still flooded and I’d turn around to try a different route.

In a stroke of good luck however, the Friday coming into that weekend I had a utility sink installed in my basement. Water coming off the mountain flooded my yard but didn’t quite reach the house. By that evening the ground was so saturated that water started coming up through the floor in my basement. We never lost power and so I was able to use the shop vac to suction it up and dump it into my new utility sink as opposed to having to carry it up the bulkhead stairs as would have been the case 2 days prior.

Watching the aftermath and recovery process in VT gave me great assurance that I had chosen well in picking VT to relocate to. Within a day VT had published maps on its website on the status of all damaged bridges and roads, with regular updates in real time. Emergency repairs were quickly made (including temporary bridges where feasible), just enough in many cases to allow vehicular traffic even if it meant a formerly paved road was now a dirt road, and then over the next year the permanent repairs occurred, as opposed to MA which suffered far less damage but just left things closed down long term while they did studies and worked towards permanent solutions, some of which weren’t even started a year later. More importantly average citizens that had equipment set out doing road repairs gratis in their neighborhoods and towns. In one isolated town people quickly build a half mile path through the woods so that kids could get to where a school bus could pick them up. They even put down wood chips so that the kids wouldn’t get muddy and organized security to assure the kid’s safety. In a number of isolated places that no vehicles could get in or out, people with ATV’s started driving into town to get prescriptions filled, get food etc. In my area the National Guard came in from I forget what State to put a river back into its channel. They camped out in a sports facility and local people started cooking meals and bringing it to them. One place where the bridge was washed out, the drive around was literally 50 miles so the locals build a footbridge themselves and the landowners on both sides let people park on their lawns on one side, walk across the bridge and then head on to work in a car that had been placed on the other side. The New England Yankee cultural heritage of our Puritan forebears was still alive and well. Towns are mostly run by volunteers and committees here and the community consensus approach we live with with our Town Meeting form of govt. lent itself well to recovery efforts snapping into place virtually overnight. Irene was the worst natural disaster in VT in living memory.