Friday, September 2, 2011

In Solidarity

The author of this blog is from Southern Vermont, which was all but destroyed in the hurricane over the weekend.

While there are some harsh criticisms that I can level from the pedestrian perspective toward much of the state, especially it's rapidly developing suburban fabric and lifestyle, there is so much amazing stuff there that this is an incredibly tragic event.  Vermont came late to the suburb game, and hopefully will make it through that period of history relatively unscathed.

The urban fabric in Vermont, on the other hand, is incredible.  It is classic, beautiful Small Town America.  And not the typical, trendy small towns surrounded by the same collection of ever-stupider and evermore placeless crap with its vast oceans of parking and meant only to supply wealth to far away economies.  This is no Colorado Springs. 

To describe being in the typical Vermont small town (not Brattleboro or Middlebury, but Fair Haven, Wardsboro and Newfane): start in the village, walk five minutes in any direction, enjoy the countryside.  It'd be nice if there were sidewalks, but that's a topic for a future Pedestrian Perspective.  At the very least, Vermont's people are so considerate that the driver problem is much less significant.  I do plan to visit for a few installments of the Pedestrian Perspective series, which will be done at some point after I can physically access my hometown and family's home again.  There are currently no routes there; they've been destroyed.

The National Guard in Wardsboro.
Hurricane Irene was expected to do a significant amount of damage to New York City and the surrounding area last weekend.  It traveled up the whole east coast in an erratic manner, without doing too much damage.  There was some, but it wasn't catastrophic the way other hurricanes have been.  Forgive the sketchy details, but I would imagine that everyone already knows the story.

As it reached upstate New York, it began to do damage with water, rather than wind.  As the winds weakened, large amounts of rain fell throughout the Catskills and Vermont.  Areas of the Capital District flooded as well, particularly Riverfront Park in Troy and the Stockade District in Schenectady.  In rural areas around Albany, brooks became angry rivers and rivers became super crazy angry rivers with teeth that chewed away the foundations from underneath houses. 

A house in Poestenkill, New York, with the foundation washed away.  My boss lives right next door.
A video of the same house.

My home state of Vermont and home town of Wardsboro were completely devastated.  There exists hours of footage and thousands of photos* on the web of what occurred there, but I'll repost a few here, along with some links to full albums.  I'm sure you've seen some before but I'm doing my best not to post the most popular videos.

I'm happy to report, also, that my family got their power back last night.  Most of Wardsboro now has power again.  However, as far as I know, they still cannot make it very far outside of town.  You'll see why in a little bit.

Before we look at pictures though, I want to make you aware of some organizations to which you can donate:

VT Irene Flood Relief Fund

Vermont Red Cross

Wilmington VT Flood Relief

Text FOODNOW to 52000 to donate $10 to Vermont Foodbank. The Foodbank will turn each donation into $60 for families in need.

Mad River Valley Community Fund

Irene Flood Drive

Stratton Foundation

Farmer Emergency Fund

Preservation Trust Fund of Vermont

For all of those sites and a few more, as well as volunteering information, check out this entry on Blurt: The Seven Days Blog.

Please do what you can.  Here are some links and videos showing what happened there:

This link will take you to an album that shows my hometown of Wardsboro, Vermont.

Route 100 in Wardsboro, from the album linked above.  The brook has literally shifted its course to the spot where the road used to be.
Another shot of Route 100 in Wardsboro.
The power was expected to potentially be out for much longer.  The reason can be seen here.

Downtown Wilmington, VT, about 15 miles south of Wardsboro.  During the flood.

Dot's Diner, during the flood.  It is such a significant landmark that I'm being asked about it by people in Albany, and have been all week.  It's been quite unpleasant to give the details.

Dot's after the flood.  Wow.
An article by the Brattleboro Reformer, about the cleanup effort in Wilmington on Wednesday.
You should also know that the Reformer only allows the viewing of 5 articles for free per month.

Route 9 between Wilmington and Brattleboro.  One of Southern Vermont's major routes.
The covered bridge in this video survived.  The damage assessment from this article: The red Taftsville Covered Bridge over the Ottauquechee River, cordoned off by yellow police tape, its roof wavy and foundations uncertain, a big green propane tank sitting by one buttress in the river. Adjacent River Road became just that, its surface scoured away into something resembling a rocky stream bed.

The bottom of my brother's road in Vermont, during the storm.  I used to live on this road at one point.
This article from CNN, in my opinion, sums up Vermont itself perfectly.  It's about the reaction by Pittsfield, outside of Rutland.

One of the most commonly seen pieces of footage was the Bartonsville Covered Bridge washing away.  They aren't being shown here because we've seen them enough.  But this next video shows something that is equally jarring, the Bartonsville Covered Bridge, as it was found downstream.

Here are a couple videos of downtown Brattleboro, VT, one of the coolest little towns in the world.  It's the "big town" that serves everyone within a 20-40 mile radius shopping, etc.

The cleanup effort in downtown Brattleboro.  Volunteers from all over town have pitched in for days, expecting nothing in return.  This is what community means.

I think that's about all I can post for now.  I'm not sure if I'll revisit this topic.  Maybe a follow up from Vermont later on.  To be candid, it's very difficult to post these pictures and write about this.  It has been a completely nerve-wracking week, as it has been for everyone from Vermont, now living elsewhere.  We all want nothing more than to be there, digging in and doing anything we can to help.  It is something that is in the back of our minds each moment.

I really feel that living in Vermont for so long influenced how I view the urban landscape (and, quite possibly, the world itself).  It showed me very clearly the good and the bad.  It also showed me the danger of exploiting the countryside too thoroughly.  In fact, it's entire history is a lesson in this.  But that's a topic for another (potentially interesting) blog post.

One last thing that needs to be said:  Vermont is, in many ways, in a better position to weather this sort of thing than many other places.  It has a hyper-local economy, for one, and a fantastic sense of community, for another.  In my hometown of Wardsboro, the only chain is a locally-owned Citgo gas station.  People are able to easily come together, such as in the article about Pittsfield posted above, because they already know and work with each other.

One thing is certain: I have never been more proud to be from Vermont as I am this week.  Every place in America can look to this little state as an example of what community and heart mean.

Please contribute to the relief effort in any way you can.

* I did not fact check this blog anywhere near as thoroughly as normal.  The facts about the storm are embarrassingly easy to find and I retrieved the information from the file in my brain, which is rarely the most accurate. 

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