Remembering Tropical Storm Irene 5 Years Later

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It’s been five years since Tropical Storm Irene ravaged the Green Mountain State.  Homes were destroyed, businesses were lost, and state infrastructure sustained hundreds of millions in damage.  But people in one Southern Vermont town are proud of the recovery work they’ve put forward.

More than 300 homes impacted, five hundred miles of roads and bridges washed away, Tropical Storm Irene has left lasting effects on the state.  Communities have worked their way back. but admit they’ll never forget.  “On Sunday morning when we got up we were laughing that this hurricane was nothing.  Another joke,” commented Marty Banak, as he worked along his property Monday.  He spend the day clearing trees, building a new foundation.  

But he had a hard time focusing, thinking back to how wrong he turned out to be.  “I’d swear that in 20 minutes on the bridge, the covered bridge in Quechee, the water rose 4 feet in 20 minutes,” he reflected.  Banak lives just outside the Quechee village.  He says the community has made great strides in just 5 years, working it’s way back from tremendous damage.

“There were just areas you couldn’t get to.  You couldn’t get to Stockbridge, you couldn’t get to Killington.  Whole miles and miles of roads washed out.  Graves unearthed, just unbelievable,” said Pete Meijer.  He’s been in the Quechee area his entire life, he’s experienced Tropical Storm Irene, as well as the 100 year flood that hit Quechee in 1973.  He says 2011 was much worse.  “The only way I can describe it, is like a slow motion train wreck.  It was just this gradual, like a locomotive going out of control,” he stated.

Banak and Meijer say most people took precautions before waters rushed through, but admit it was hard to stand by and watch the destruction occur.  “There was a lot of whispering and soft voices.  I would have to say that’s what struck me, conversations were not there normal conversations.  People were in hushed tones, not talking a lot,” stated Banak.

But things have changed.  The two say a great recovery effort was taken throughout the region.  The Quechee covered bridge, has been rebuilt.  It stands as proof of the community’s resilience.  Banak and Mejier are proud of the work, but they’re staying prepared for the worst.  “I would say 5 years later, when it starts to rain really heavy, it still brings out some nervous tendencies.  It’s good to be on your guard, it’s good to be prepared.  I don’t think I’d ever want to see another storm like that,” reflected Meijer.

The lives of six Vermonters were lost due to Tropical Storm Irene.  It’ll go down as the worst natural disaster the state has suffered in nearly 100 years.
 

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