Vergennes EMTs, ambulance provide relief on New Jersey shore

VERGENNES — At 6 p.m. on Nov. 6, one week after Superstorm Sandy devastated long stretches of the Eastern seaboard, a convoy of seven Vermont ambulance crews left the Green Mountain State bound for New Jersey.
The convoy, which included personnel from Vergennes Area Rescue Squad (VARS), responded to a call made in anticipation of a second storm, which on Nov. 7 hit stretches of coast already crippled by the hurricane with more wind, rain and snow.
Some towns in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts lost power for a second time.
VARS, along with Fletcher Allen Coordinated Transport, Amcare Ambulance Service of St. Albans, the Williston Fire Department, Lyndon Rescue, and the Barre City and Glover ambulance services each sent an ambulance and two EMTs after a call came from the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
That compact is a national disaster-relief agreement among the lower 48 states; it pledges to pool resources in times of governor-declared emergencies.
Elizabeth Clark and Ann Rivers were the two VARS EMTs. When they arrived in their destination town of Hazlet, they saw there had been three to 11 feet of water flooding some structures close to the beach — which also hosted a boardwalk with an amusement park — and the town’s fire department and EMS building.
“They had a lot of devastation,” Clark said.
The Vermont convoy first arrived at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., early on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 7. East Rutherford is part of a region known as the Meadowlands — a low-lying stretch of marsh and wetlands that is especially vulnerable to storms.
They spent the night at the stadium and on that Thursday morning were deployed to Hazlet, a seaside town, as part of a strike team of 17 ambulances. In Hazlet, Clark and Rivers stayed in a schoolhouse.
“From there, we did missions,” Clark said. “Anything from back pain to seizures, falls to dehydration or diabetic episodes.”
Clark, who had never been in a natural disaster zone before, called the combined efforts of volunteers from across the country and New Jersey locals, “the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life.”
One of the most touching moments came for Clark and Rivers when the convoy left Hazlet on Sunday morning to return to Vermont.
“The head of the New Jersey task force escorted us from Hazlet to the Meadowlands,” Clark recalled. “That’s 40 miles. They had blocked the streets off. Everyone was waving.”
Asked how the town was faring since they had left, Clark said she had been in touch.
“I spoke do them yesterday and they’re hanging in there. People are getting power back,” she said on Tuesday. “It will be a very long process, but they are all strong and dedicated.”

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