ADDISON COUNTY — Nearly one year after tropical storm Irene hit the state of Vermont local residents are still recovering from the damage. Disaster relief funds and volunteer efforts have dramatically improved conditions, but Irene’s aftermath is still a problem for many Vermonters and those working to help them.
Irene Recovery Officer Sue Minter said that while 22 million dollars was given to individuals whose homes were damaged by the storm from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it is still not enough to help all of Irene’s victims. There are currently over 800 open cases flood survivors whose needs remain unmet in Vermont, ranging from insurance issues to mobile homes filled with mold.
Minter said that right now state officials and volunteers are working to develop individual recovery plans to get people back into their homes.
“It is gratifying to see the work of so many Vermonters still volunteering time to support Irene survivors,” stated Vermont’s Irene Recovery Officer, Sue Minter. “While Irene may be a distant memory for some, it is still a daily challenge for many and our goal is to help displaced Vermonters return to permanent safe housing.”
The state has established 9 Long Term Recovery Committees that focus on the specific problems of different areas throughout Vermont. These committees are made up of local volunteer agencies, community-based organization, local governments, and members of the private sector.
Among the nine, the Addison County Long Term Recovery Committee covers all of the recovery efforts within the Addison County lines, while the Third Branch Flood Recovery committee covers Hancock and Granville, among other areas. Additionally, the Rutland County LTRC covers Brandon, as well as the entire county of Rutland.
Despite their efforts, Minter and the regional committees face a great challenge. Many local towns that expected to receive reimbursement for repairing damages fear that they now may not get it.
FEMA has yet to provide a number for how much reimbursement they will offer. Minter has heard reports from other small towns that were greatly disappointed in the amount of funding they received from FEMA. Right now, Minter is processing paperwork and documenting to prepare incase any opposition arises.
Minter spoke to some of the setbacks in Vermont. Among many issues, there are farms still covered in debris and local buildings, like the Waterbury State Office Complex, are still suffering structural damage. Specifically, she said that areas such as Bennington still must reestablish the Roaring Branch, which remains filled with boulders.
Minter and the stateare preparing to appeal negative decisions by FEMA.
“We are not going down quietly,” said Minter. “There are other situations that have set the prescient that these cases do get overturned. We are not hesitant to take these issues to Washington.”
Despite the hard road of repair that still lies ahead, the state of Vermont has come a long way. Minter said that state roads and bridges were repaired much more quickly than expected, due to their necessity in facilitating the statewide economy. She said that there was over 500 miles of damaged road that has been recovered to its original state.
Minter said it is now time to address the biggest challenges. Emergency repairs were satisfactory for the time being, but there is still a need for more permanent repairs statewide. The Long Term Committee structure is helping to provide these repairs.
“I am proud that we have established a working infrastructure to address these issues,” said Minter. “The next steps is to continue to mobilize people and push back against FEMA to provide safe, permanent housing for those still displaced.”
Minter said that volunteers have been doing incredible work, but the task still remains enormous.
As of now, relief projects need repairs in infrastructure, specifically skilled volunteers with the knowledge of using heavy equipment. They hope to pair individual volunteers to specific projects to ensure more efficiency in repairs. Minter is impressed that Vermonters and individuals from outside the state are still very willing to help.
“It is gratifying to see the work of so many Vermonters still volunteering time to support Irene survivors,” stated Minter. “While Irene may be a distant memory for some, it is still a daily challenge for many and our goal is to help displaced Vermonters return to permanent safe housing.”