Rep. Oliver Olsen, R-Jamaica, represents Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston, and Winhall in the Vermont House of Representatives. He is retiring from the House at the conclusion of his term.
Originally published in The Commons issue #167 (Wednesday, August 29, 2012).
It is hard to believe, but a year has passed since Tropical Storm Irene ravaged our community.
Aug. 28, 2011 is a day that will forever be etched in our memory.
We all remember the great tragedies of our lifetime. We remember where we were and what we were doing on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Those who are old enough can recall, in vivid detail, the day when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
But unlike many events that we witness from a distance — on television, through the Internet, or in the newspaper — Tropical Storm Irene was one that touched many of us personally.
We all felt the rain; most were inconvenienced by road closures; many lost their homes, their businesses, and their personal possessions; a few lost their loved ones.
A year later, Irene is more than a memory. The scars — both physical and emotional — are constant reminders of what happened that Sunday morning.
And for those who were most directly impacted, the anniversary is merely a milestone in what has become a long, and sometimes uncertain, journey towards recovery.
* * *
As I travel down Route 11, through Londonderry, I am reminded of a front porch that was carried away by the floodwaters and left standing in the middle of the road. The porch belonged to an elderly couple whose home had flooded to the windowsills.
It was a heartbreaking sight, but within days, a local army of volunteers had gutted the home and cleared the debris. Leveraging a combination of funding from FEMA and the Stratton Foundation, the owners were back in their rebuilt, refurnished home by the end of the year.
On the other hand, two nearby homes — both damaged beyond repair — sit empty today, and they remind us of the work that remains. Fortunately, both owners are in new housing, but they are still awaiting word from FEMA on approval for a program that will allow the town to purchase and remove their old homes.
I recently spoke with a small-business owner who suffered substantial uninsured losses as a result of the flood. Shortly after the storm, the state of Vermont was able to offer a low-cost loan that helped put her back in business.
With the help of the loan, she was able to position her business for a particularly successful rebound this year. A year later, she is still paying off the loan, but hopes to have it closed out by the end of this year.
* * *
Of all the towns in the five-town district that I represent, none was harder hit than my hometown of Jamaica. We lost roads, bridges, and several homes to Irene.
My next-door neighbor, Beverly Landman, has a unique perspective. Her living-room window looks out at the bridge along Route 30 that collapsed during the storm. In the days, weeks, and months following Irene, she watched as remnants of the old bridge were removed and replaced with a temporary structure.
The destruction and rebuilding process is not unfamiliar to Beverly. At 94 years of age, she still remembers the 1927 flood, which took out the railroad that her father worked on but spared the homes on Water Street, where she grew up.
Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.