The spectacular Vermont landscape helps define our tiny state. People live and play in the mountains. Our villages and towns bind us together as a community; places where we raise our families and places where we go to work and shop. Our farm fields help feed us and feed our animals.
But one year ago that all changed. Tropical Storm Irene altered the state's landscape. We were in the air getting the images of the damage just a day after the storm of the century. It was clear Vermont and its people we're hurting. Heavy rain wiped out homes, farms, businesses, families. Six people died. Millions of dollars in damage. Those who took the pictures during the first few days could not believe what they were witnessing.
One year later, Vermont is on the mend. But there are so many scars. We went back to the air retracing our steps from last year. We found the water has retreated, but it's just not the same. The water now may be in the right place, but you can see mounds of silt and debris. It's everywhere; a reminder of the scope of this storm.
It could be years before things return to normal.
Farmers took it on the chin from Irene. Crops were destroyed, animals were lost-- some swept down the river. Some 17,000 acres of crops were destroyed, the loss estimated at $20 million statewide; 476 farmers reported losses because of Irene.
Vermonters rallied. They raised $2.5 million in contributions. Nearly 200 farmers received grants hoping to stay in business.
Those who lived closest to the water took the direct hits. Hundreds of homes, from farm houses to mobile homes, were destroyed. Some still sit in place abandoned in the riverbeds, but new homes have popped up. And so have bridges. So many of the structures that keep us connected were destroyed.
One of the stunning images came from Rochester where a destroyed bridge was marked with a giant RIP. Today, a new structure is in place, once again getting people to and from their work and homes. Some of the bridges are only temporary; a more permanent solution could take years. We will never take these structures for granted.
Getting to work took on new meaning for many. The heart of state government came to a standstill for a minute. The Waterbury office complex was under water; hundreds of workers forced to stay home or find a new work place. The offices remain closed. There are plans to rebuild and renovate, but some employees will never return to Waterbury, moved to other locations.
It's a still a work in progress for so many who suffered so much in the last year, but a slogan was born: Vermont Strong. Two words that mean so much to the Green Mountain State and its people.
Friday, May 17 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:54:10 GMT
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