Editorial: Stronger in Tropical Storm Irene’s wake

Yesterday was the second year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene. Gov. Peter Shumlin toured areas of the state that were most severely damaged to mark the occasion with a simple message: The state has come a long way in recovering from one of the worst floods in Vermont’s history, but there is still more to do.
In recapping Irene, the governor recalled that six Vermonters lost their lives in the storm that dumped as much as 11 inches of rain on parts of the state, had winds exceeding 60 mph that blew down trees and power lines, and created damage in 225 of Vermont’s 251 towns.
Numbers tell part of that story:
• Damage estimates are pegged at $750 million to $1 billion.
• More than 500 miles of state roads have been repaired, while hundreds of bridges have been replaced and repaired.
• 963 culverts have been either repaired, restored or replaced.
• 7,252 households registered with FEMA for individual assistance.
• Over 20,000 acres of farmland was flooded.
• 13 communities were isolated.
• Over 3,500 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
• 17 mobile home parks were severely flooded.
The costs go much higher when the millions of unreported losses are figured into the picture, not to mention lost wages and lost business in those places hardest hit by the flood. It has been a sobering recovering, and in many cases there is still work to be done. Businesses are still struggling to recover from the devastation, a few destroyed buildings and homes still sit in ruins, and a few families displaced by the storm are still living in unsuitable housing. Shumlin rightly reminded those in need and the rest of the state, “We have not forgotten you, and will not stop fighting until the job is done.”
The good news is that about $850 million in combined funds toward the recovery effort have been reported to date, including roughly $600 million in federal funding. Moreover, the state is better prepared for future storms.
“Perhaps the greatest legacy of irene will be in our state and local preparation, planning and recovery efforts,” Shumlin said, noting that nine long-term recovery committees were formed in the hardest hit areas and will continue to be active going forward. It’s also notable that many washed-out roads, culverts and bridges were rebuilt with bigger storms in mind.
That may be grasping for a silver lining on a storm cloud, but it’s also a well-deserved pat on the back for all of those who worked so hard to get the state, their communities and their friends and neighbors back on their feet and their lives back to normal. It’s the stuff that galvanizes communities and makes all Vermonters stronger for the effort.
Angelo S. Lynn

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