Revisiting Vermont: So Close To Home

I wrote Tuesday’s post, “Green Mountain Blues” — about the devastation Vermont suffered from Hurricane Irene — because many Westporters have close ties to the Green Mountain State.

Former Staples English teacher Karl Decker sent a link to dozens of powerful photos.  I chose one that, to me, represented the carnage more than any other:

Within hours, I heard from Julien Delepine.  He grew up in Westport, and — with his wife and child — still lives here.

Incredibly, he said:

That Route 4 picture you posted is of my mother’s house.  She lost 7 acres to a brook that turned violent.  It’s a brook I always used to walk through.

I emailed his mother, Josiane.  Yesterday she added harrowing details about her devastating loss.

She lives off Route 4, just below the photo, with Todd Keehan — like her, another longtime Westporter.  When the road collapsed in front of her house, Mendon Brook changed its course.  It surged onto her property, taking everything there with incredible strength.

Hundreds of trees toppled like dominoes.  Gone too are 6 acres of beautiful woods and meadows; her lawn; flowers; nearly an acre of raspberries, and a vegetable garden.

In their place lie piles of boulders and stones.  And until a bridge is rebuilt, Josiane and Todd live in area locals call “the island.”

A raging "brook" engulfs Josiane Delepine's property.

The state — overwhelmed by destruction everywhere — cannot help replace what Josiane lost.

She had no flood insurance.  Who would have imagined that a brook could  unleash such damage?

FEMA does not pay for landscape replacement.  Josiane hopes for help from environmental groups, and is appealing to FEMA to at least cover her failed septic system.  She wonders if anyone has any ideas on how to cut through red tape, and make the system work.

The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.”  Even in tiny Mendon, Vermont, Westport is part of that world.

And now — even more than before — we are part of that story.

4 responses to “Revisiting Vermont: So Close To Home

  1. Thanks, Dan. It is the personal story such as this one, that gives the human dimension to that which is lost in most media coverage. Sadly, Josiane’s story can be repeated over and over and over and over throughout the state. Few visitors, traveling along restored roads this fall or winter, will see the wreckage or hear the voices of folks who have lost everything. At least now, through your good efforts, some have heard one. –Karl Decker, Townshend, Vermont

  2. We dropped our son off at Middlebury college in VT on Sept 6 amidst the state’s efforts to recover from Irene. We drove over makeshift roads but were not really aware of the depth of devastation until one of the school employees who was cheerfully helping with freshman move in told us that one friend’s father’s remains had literally been washed away and yet to be recovered with the others buried in a cemetery adjacent to a river. At tue same time he told us of the efforts of Middlebury and UVM students and communities to organize and rally to help those in need. Some simply went to help farmers dig muck out of their barns and find stray cattle. very much that attitude of determined perseverance that you mentioned in your post and which I remember from my days as a student at Middlebury. I have the highest regard and admiration for the people of that state!

  3. Dan, thank you for making the situation visible if only in our small world. I grew up in VT, went to school there and still have family there so I have heard so many stories like the one you have shared. I can’t tell you how many time I have driven up RT 4 and walked by the brook – boggles the mind to think it became a destructive river. I know that Peter Welch and the two VT Senators are trying to help people cut through the red tape so I would recommend contacting all three offices if she hasn’t already.

  4. I’m sure this is already being done but just incase it’s not: he should absolutely personally and then also in writing (submitting via their websites, and then letters directly to their local offices and offices in DC) contact his congressional representatives and senators, as well as the media. He should collect the support of as many people in the areas that they represent that are in similar situation to his. In doing so he is presenting exact $-size of the problem, i.e., they want it to be big enough problem to warrant ‘special consideration’ but not so large that it will be impossible to accomodate them all. he should not wait to collect all of the ‘others in similar situation’ before he contacts the politicians and media, he just needs to let them know that process is in the works. And, he should not let his file be handled by freshman members of the staff of the politicians. Most freshman staff members handle their duties ‘text-book’/bureaucrat style.