—Artists, town officials, politicians, and media-types escaping the heat of a late-summer sun stood in the cooling shadow of the Whetstone Studio for the Arts on Saturday morning.Many of the visitors left their houses still under repair, drove down patched roads with gleaming guardrails, and walked across still-sandy yards, to stand by the building rehabilitated by owner David Parker after Tropical Storm Irene’s floods tore through it last year.Irene barreled through Vermont on Aug. 28, 2011. According to numbers from the Vermont Recovery Office, the storm affected 200 towns, leaving 45 with severe damage. It hit 3,500 homes, displaced 1,405 households, and killed six people, two in Windham County.On the one-year anniversary, Gov. Peter Shumlin kicked off a four-day series of Irene commemorations in some Vermont communities hardest hit by the storm, among them the Windham County towns and villages of Bartonsville, Brattleboro, Wilmington, Stratton, and Jamaica.Shumlin spoke about how far the state had come since Irene through the heroic work of volunteers, neighbors, and town officials. He said much of the recovery efforts were due to the early generosity of Vermonters and “strangers from out of state.”He honored community members and town officials with signed Vermont Strong license plates. Shumlin also asked that no one forget the six people killed by the storm. Two of the dead included Ivana Taseva of Shtip, Macedonia, who died in Wilmington, and Anthony Doleszny in Brattleboro.More needs to be done, said Shumlin.Irene’s devastation did not hit the state evenly. While some watched their homes wash downstream, others weathered the rain damage-free. Vermonters’ individual experience with recovery also mirrors these two ends of the spectrum.“We are the tale of two states,” said Shumlin. “There are those who didn’t get hit that bad by Irene. That group has moved on. Then there’s the other group whose wounds are still fresh. They’re frustrated, demoralized, and financially strained.”According to the Vermont Recovery Office, 7,000 Vermonters applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for individual assistance.Shumlin said that 700 Vermonters with the toughest of the tough cases are still waiting for assistance. The state has set up the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, commonly called “the fund of last resort,” to help.“As we commemorate Irene, let’s use this opportunity to recommit to those still in pain,” he said.For people still waiting for assistance and sick of dealing with red tape and bureaucracy, Shumlin said, “I am frustrated, you are frustrated, we are frustrated.”“But,” he added. “Be sure to turn this frustration into action.”The governor urged Vermonters to buy a Vermont Strong license plate, which helps fund recovery. He said that the state needs $10 million to meet the unanticipated expenses of recovering from the disaster, and the sale of 50,000 plates would raise $1 million.
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