Vermont’s vulnerability to flooding was the harsh reality Irene drove home in 2011. More than 2,400 roads, 800 homes and businesses, 300 bridges (including historic covered bridges) and a half dozen railroad lines were destroyed or damaged, according to the National Oceanic Administration Agency (NOAA).

Pulling Together

What also was revealed during Irene was Vermonters’ determination to work together in the worst of circumstances.

The storm left at least 13 towns as veritable islands, cut off by rising waters or collapsed bridges. When one of those blocked crossings left residents of Royalton isolated, local fire and rescue workers teamed up to clear a path through a field of sunflowers, uproot a tree and cut through a fence. That allowed residents to drive onto Interstate 89 on what some locals dubbed ‘the hillbilly highway,’ and others jokingly called Exit 2 ½.

Peggy Shinn, a Vermonter who weathered the storm, chronicled one story in her book, “Deluge.”  In it, Mark Bourassa, who worked for a local excavation crew, drove 37 miles on ravaged roads and walked an additional six to reach his job after the storm. As Bourassa and his boss, Craig Bosher, manned a bulldozer and an excavator to begin reconstructing U.S. Route 4, a crucial east-west highway in the southern part of the state, Mosher called the state transportation agency to tell them of their plans.

When he gave his name to the person who answered, Shinn writes, Mosher was told he was not an approved state contractor.

“I’m not asking for permission,” Mosher said. “I’m telling you what I’m doing.”

Then he hung up and began rebuilding Route 4.

 AUTHOR: Kendra Pierre-Louis

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