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Eastern county towns hit hard, left isolated after roads destroyed

GRANVILLE/HANCOCK — As most Addison County residents turned to recovery and repairs early this week, many Granville and Hancock residents were still trying to make do without phones, electricity and passable roads.
The only two Addison County towns on the eastern slope of the Green Mountains were among the communities hit hardest when Tropical Storm Irene dumped a massive amount of rain on Vermont Sunday.
On Monday Granville made it onto a list of 13 communities statewide with no passable roads in or out, but by Tuesday afternoon officials at Vermont Emergency Management reported that Plunkton Road to the north of the town was open, bypassing affected areas of Route 100.
And though Hancock fared slightly better, most points of access by road were out of commission at the beginning of this week.
Eugene Allen, a foreman from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, was leading a work crew repairing a portion of Route 125 starting about a mile east of the Middlebury College Snow Bowl on Tuesday afternoon. He said parts of the road into Hancock had been washed into the river up to the center line.
“I had probably 250 feet of guardrail that was in the river,” Allen said.
But Allen compared this week’s damage on the road to the flooding in August 2008 that also washed out large swaths of Route 125.
“It’s not as bad as it was three years ago. Nowhere near as bad as it was three years ago,” he said.
Willem Jewett, a Ripton resident who represents Hancock in the Legislature, traveled into Hancock on Monday evening to take stock of the damage. He said the approach to the bridge at the intersection of Routes 125 and 100 was completely wiped out, but that he was able to cross into town on foot. Jewett reported that the town itself was relatively undamaged, but that most roads in or out of the valley were out of commission.
“I’m told the Granville Gulf just doesn’t exist anymore,” said Jewett.
Residents in both towns, said Jewett, are struggling to find supplies of food. By Monday evening, the Hubbard General Store in Hancock and Mac’s Valley Market in Rochester had sold out of food and closed down.
Vermont Emergency Management on Tuesday morning reported that Vermont National Guard trucks and helicopters would be moving provisions, water and other supplies into 21 isolated and limited-access communities in the state throughout the day. Once there, local authorities were assigned to take care of the distribution of the provisions.
The Associated Press reported that the National Guard on Tuesday began flying in supplies to a dozen Vermont towns, including Granville, Hancock and Rochester.
Ben Truman, a Department of Health employee who was providing extra help at Vermont Emergency Management on Tuesday, said that the state’s first concern at that point was the roads.
“Dealing with the roads is obviously a huge priority, especially in communities that are cut off,” said Truman.
Brian Keefe, vice president of government and public affairs at Central Vermont Power Service, Vermont’s largest utility, wrote in an email Jewett shared with the Independent that the Rochester electric substation was heavily damaged and had as of Tuesday only been accessed by dirt bike. That substation provides to Hancock as well as Rochester.
While Keefe said he was hoping that repairs on the substation could begin on Tuesday, he said restoring power to Hancock would likely take longer.
“I think we are still looking at a matter of days for Hancock, but until we can get in there with equipment we won’t know how long for sure,” said Keefe.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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