Irene slams Vermont's mountain towns

Thursday September 1, 2011

MANCHESTER -- The tropical storm resulting from Hurricane Irene blew through southern Vermont on Sunday leaving a trail of destruction in her wake, and some of the hardest-hit communities were the "mountain towns" strung along Routes 11 and 30.

Jamaica was among the towns worst hit by the storm, which caused a significant amount of structural damage, according to state representative Oliver Olsen (R - Bennington, Windham, Windsor-1 district).

"The damage in Jamaica is quite extensive. We haven't even finished cataloguing the full extent of it yet. What we do know is the bridge, along Route 30 and Jamaica Village by the fire station, was taken out by the flood," Olsen said. "There's a large segment of Water Street with at least three houses that were washed away. The street and at least three houses, potentially four were washed away."

Olsen also said he had heard unconfirmed reports that there were other houses in the vicinity of West Jamaica Road that were destroyed as well.

West Jamaica Road and another one in that area was also partially washed away, Olsen said.

In addition, Depot Street bridge has been closed because of damage that it sustained, Olsen said.

The Town of Winhall also suffered damage. According to Police Chief Jeffrey Whitesell, the town first began receiving reports of road damage around 8 a.m. on Sunday and at its height, 24 roads throughout the town had been closed.

Among the roads to sustain damage was about a 100 yard section of Route 30 -- the main artery through town.

"About 200 yards below the police and rescue facility, that section of Route 30 is completely missing," said Whitesell.

Another section of Route 30 located near Stoney Hill Road was in danger of being damaged as well. However, work performed to replace the culvert helped save that section of the road, Whitesell said.

In addition to Route 30, Whitesell said a 100 yard section of River Road along the banks of the Winhall River was also lost.

Some roads are so damaged that Whitesell said they are currently working to simply make them passable before they can move onto completely repairing them.

According to Olsen, there were one or two bridges between Rawsonville and Winhall that had been damaged as a result of flooding. Olsen said he had received a report that one of them had been destroyed, but he did not have first hand confirmation of that fact.

Londonderry also sustained heavy flooding, Olsen said. The Route 11 bridge was damaged and was closed on Monday for safety reasons. In South Londonderry, the water also rose very high, cresting at the deck of the bridge. In a telephone interview on Monday, Olsen said the bridge was open, but he was unsure what condition it was in.

The town of Weston was also seriously affected by the storm, with severe flooding throughout the town. The Weston Playhouse was among the buildings that sustained damage from the flood waters.

While it is much too early to estimate the cost of the damage left by the storm, Olsen said that it would be substantial. However, it is likely Vermont will receive some assistance, Olsen said.

"The good thing is the state has been declared a disaster area," he said.

"FEMA is already in the state ... So that's going to help expedite the process of getting federal money into the state for emergency repairs to help with reconstruction."

The challenge though, Olsen said, will be trying to make the repairs before the onset of winter.


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