Vermont starts long road to recovery from historic floods, helped by army of volunteers

by Andrew Wright
recovery efforts

Vermont Embarks on the Path to Recovery from Unprecedented Floods with the Aid of Volunteer Forces

In the aftermath of devastating floods that wreaked havoc on Vermont, the Marshfield Village Store has transformed into a vital lifeline for the local residents. Situated at the intersection of two country highways in a small Vermont town, the store has provided shelter to around thirty people and now serves as a distribution center for essential supplies and fresh water.

“We are in the process of formalizing our efforts to reach out to those who have not yet received the support they need. Our goal is to provide them with equipment, volunteers, emergency medication, and assistance with property restoration,” explained Michelle Eddleman McCormick, the store’s general manager.

Over the course of a few days, the region experienced rainfall equivalent to two months’ worth, surpassing the levels witnessed during the destructive Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. This week’s floods have been deemed the state’s worst natural disaster since the floods of 1927, prompting discussions about the influence of climate change on extreme weather events.

Tragically, the floods claimed one life, as Stephen Davoll, 63, drowned in his Barre residence. Vermont Emergency Management spokesperson Mark Bosma urged caution and vigilance among those returning home to assess and repair the damage caused.

Expressing sorrow, U.S. Sen. Peter Welch stated, “The loss of a Vermonter is always painful, but it is particularly so this week.”

Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s request for a major disaster declaration was approved by President Joe Biden on Friday, enabling the state to receive federal support in its recovery efforts. While many communities have already been in contact with Vermont emergency management officials, approximately two to three dozen have yet to establish communication, leading to the deployment of National Guard troops to establish contact. Additionally, recovery centers are set to open in Barre and Ludlow, facilitating the recovery process for flood survivors.

With most emergency shelters now empty, the focus has shifted to providing food, water, and infrastructure repairs. Numerous roads have been closed, and an estimated 23 water treatment plants have been affected, leading to either flooding or untreated sewage discharge into waterways.

Residents of Ludlow have largely returned home and have regained access to electricity and water. However, the town still faces challenges as the post office, wastewater treatment plant, main grocery store, and several restaurants have suffered significant damage. Nonetheless, the community has rallied together, establishing pop-up pantries and donation centers to provide meals, water, and medicine.

The agricultural sector has also been severely impacted, compounding the challenges faced by growers who had previously endured a harsh freeze in May. Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts expects substantial damage to crops and livestock feed, particularly in the fertile farmlands situated in the river valleys. Assessing the full extent of the damage and its associated costs will take time.

Governor Scott and other officials have expressed gratitude for the countless volunteers who have come forward to aid in the recovery effort. Thousands of Vermonters, businesses, and organizations have offered their support, and the governor emphasized the necessity of their assistance during the recovery process.

As of Friday, approximately 5,200 individuals statewide had registered to contribute to relief efforts through the state emergency management agency and an online volunteer recruitment campaign. Philip Kolling, director of SerVermont, acknowledged that these figures do not capture the entirety of the volunteer efforts organized by local organizations, towns, and informal networks, which often address critical needs more promptly.

Volunteers have generously offered to transport individuals for medical appointments, assist with general cleanup, and contribute to charitable initiatives such as Meals on Wheels. In Ludlow, Calcutta’s restaurant has taken the initiative to prepare meals for first responders, volunteers, and anyone else in need, setting up a banquet room equipped with cots, water, and toiletries.

As the state braces for more wet weather anticipated to arrive on Sunday and Tuesday, the extent of these upcoming storms remains uncertain.

Reporting by McCormack from Concord, New Hampshire. Contributions by Lisa Rathke in Marshfield and Michael Casey in Boston.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about recovery efforts

What caused the historic floods in Vermont?

The historic floods in Vermont were caused by storms that dumped an unusually high amount of rain in a short period of time, surpassing the levels witnessed during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. This resulted in major flooding throughout the state.

How severe were the floods in Vermont?

The floods in Vermont have been described as the state’s worst natural disaster since the floods of 1927. They caused significant damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and residential areas, leading to the loss of one life and widespread disruption.

How is Vermont recovering from the floods?

Vermont is in the process of recovery with the help of volunteer efforts and federal support. The state has set up distribution centers, repair initiatives, and recovery centers to assist flood survivors. Communities are coming together to provide essential supplies, food, and assistance to those affected.

How has the agriculture sector been affected by the floods?

The floods have severely impacted Vermont’s agriculture sector. Fertile farmlands in river valleys have been swamped and buried, causing substantial damage to crops, livestock feed, and farming infrastructure. The full extent of the damage and associated costs are yet to be determined.

What support has Vermont received for its recovery efforts?

Vermont has received federal support after President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration. This declaration enables the state to access additional resources and assistance to aid in the recovery process. Additionally, thousands of volunteers, businesses, and organizations have come forward to offer their support and aid in the recovery efforts.

More about recovery efforts

  • Vermont Emergency Management – Official website of Vermont Emergency Management for updates and resources related to the floods.
  • Tropical Storm Irene – Information about Tropical Storm Irene that impacted Vermont in 2011.
  • Climate Change Impacts on Flooding – EPA’s page on the impacts of climate change on flooding events.
  • Vermont Governor’s Office – Official website of Vermont Governor’s Office for updates on the state’s response and recovery efforts.
  • SerVermont – SerVermont’s website for volunteering opportunities and information on disaster relief efforts.
  • Vermont Department of Agriculture – Official website of the Vermont Department of Agriculture for updates on the impact of floods on the agriculture sector and recovery initiatives.

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JohnSmith July 15, 2023 - 12:43 pm

wow vermont had crazy floods, worst in 1927. climate change sux, we need to do somethin bout it!

AdventureSeeker July 15, 2023 - 1:55 pm

the resilience of the vermont community is inspiring. despite the challenges, they’re coming together to support each other. #VermontStrong

OutdoorLover12 July 15, 2023 - 4:27 pm

vermont’s agriculture got hit hard. it’s gonna take a while for the farms to bounce back. hope they get the help they need!

GreenThumb July 15, 2023 - 8:13 pm

devastating floods on top of a hard freeze for the growers. tough times for vermont’s agriculture. hoping they can recover and rebuild soon.

JaneDoe July 16, 2023 - 9:51 am

i feel so bad for the ppl affected by the floods. they rly need our support and help to recover. kudos to all the volunteers stepping up to assist!


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