It takes an ATV and a little courage to access more than a dozen communities in the White River Valley, cut off by Irene. Peter Stiebris is one of the stranded. He offered to give us an eye-opening tour of the devastation via ATVs.
This used to be the back road between Bethel and Stockbridge. Now residents travel on foot or four-wheelers trying to cart back what supplies they can.
"It's like a highway today," Stiebris said.
But the devastation is just too much for some. Every way out of Stockbridge has been reduced to rubble. Boulders are the only evidence a road ever existed here and the only way around is up Vultures Mountain.
So we battled heavy brush through an old logging road cleared by this father and son. They marked the trail with torn bed sheets so others could follow. A path that clearly says "no ATVs." But for folks surviving without basic necessities the rules no longer seem to matter.
Mother Nature may have knocked out phone service and power to these communities, but she can't stop the postal service.
"There is no incoming mail at all because no truck can get to that post office," Gaysville postmaster Kelly Roberts said.
So Roberts hikes 8 miles a day through these hills collecting outgoing mail. Her dedication opens communication with the outside world.
"Well hey, mail must go through. Absolutely," she said.
A few more treacherous miles and we reach Gaysville, crossing a bridge that's starting to show signs of erosion and folks in town fear it too will close. But Route 107 is the bigger problem; little remains of the state highway and critical trucking route.
"I've gone up, down, over and around and every time you go someplace a bridge is out there's nothing," Laurie Cleveland said.
Cleveland is a traveling nurse and resident of Stockbridge. She worries what resources they have left will soon be gone.
"There's no water, no electricity and pretty soon the ice box is going to be defrosted and there'll be no food," Cleveland said.
Stockbridge residents are using the last remaining food in the school because they don't have a generator and then it's on to town meetings to figure out what this community is going to do. But the latest growing fear here is for the elderly.
"My medication will be short in a couple of days," Helen Chap said.
Chap, 94, is waiting to be airlifted from Stockbridge to Gifford Medical Center. And the news comes as a relief to many in town.
"Ordinarily you just go to the drug store and get some more. Not today," Chap said.
Just past the school is the end of the road for us. Route 100 drops off-- making passage to Pittsfield impossible. We double-back to where we started and our 50-mile journey adds new meaning to the word stranded.
The Mascoma Bank in Bethel is holding a community barbecue on Fri., Sept. 2 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. to feed everyone in the community. At the event they will have more information about how people can make donations.
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