BRATTLEBORO -- Though Tropical Storm Irene tore through Vermont 16 months ago, 2012 was the year of recovery from its effects.
From Brattleboro to Wardsboro and from Wilmington to Rockingham, communities, business owners and families spent much of the past year trying to get back to where they were on Aug. 27, 2011. While many of them were able to recover fairly quickly, many others continue to struggle.
In Wilmington, the Old Red Mill was reopened less than four months after it was flooded by the Deerfield River, but Dot's, on Main Street, is still being rebuilt. While Just Bead It moved to Stratton Mountain Village following the storm, Beadz Needs was opened in its old location.
The extent of the damage in Wilmington was evident by the number of businesses that received grants from the Wilmington Vermont Flood Relief Fund. They included, but were not limited to: Sprague Welding, Jim McGrath Painting, Ann Coleman Painting, Roseate Creations, Young and Constantin, Gallery Wright Sticks and Stones Studio, The Fashion Plate, Cady & Dugan Law Offices, Wilmington Home Center, 4 North Main Street, Apres Vous, The Brookhouse Country Stores, Brookside Stables, The Sitzmark, McBriertys Market, The Vermont House, Hayseed Gifts, Pickwells Barn, North Star Bowl, Mike Redin Locksmith, Blue Mountain Produce, The Old Red Mill, Wilmington Baptist Church, Beanheads, Vermont Candle Company and Rivers Edge Country Store.
For nearly a year, the Wilmington Town Offices were housed in Shaw's Plaza while the town hall was repaired.
The Bartonsville Bridge in Rockingham, which was swept away by the Saxtons River, is slated to reopen Jan. 26, but a temporary bridge still straddles the West River in downtown Jamaica.
Mud along Flat Street in Brattleboro was expeditiously shoveled up and hauled away and over the next several months, businesses and organizations along the street did their best with the help of friends and neighbors to get their doors back open, but some folks who once lived along the Whetstone Brook in West Brattleboro had to face the fact that they would never be able to go back to their old homes again.
It took weeks, sometimes months, for roads to be repaired in Marlboro, Halifax, Wardsboro, Grafton and Williamsville, where people were essentially cut off due to the devastation.
FEMA authorized the buyout of three damaged homes in Rockingham but due to a technicality (their homes weren't in a designated floodplain), several homeowners along Ball Mountain Brook in Jamaica were refused buyouts and are still in limbo.
In Westminster, Allen Brothers on Route 5 was virtually washed away, but nine months later, a new store was reopened on the spot.
Almost one year to the day that Irene swept through South Newfane, the town played host to the Rock River Revival Parade.
While 2012 saw many bright signs of recovery from Irene, some among us will continue to struggle for years to come. But that's only to be expected, considering the wide swath of devastation the storm left behind. In Vermont, it caused more than $1 billion in damages, damaged or destroyed 3,500 homes (500 of which were mobile homes), damaged nearly 1,000 culverts and damaged or destroyed 277 bridges.
What we learned most over the past 16 months was that though we need our federal, state and town governments to help us out in our time of need, the real helping hand came from our neighbors, our families and our friends. Many of them chipped in with a helping hand and even more opened their wallets and pocketbooks and donated to charitable organizations aiding in the recovery effort. Others organized rallies, concerts and fundraisers to get money to people affected by Irene.
So, yes, 2012 was the year of recovery, but it was also the year that reminded us we are all connected in one way or another, and though we may not have a lot to give, what we do have to give can be just enough to help some people get by when they need it the most.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.