As the wrath of the flood came and went, an arc of emotion washed
over all of us, but especially those in the direct line of the
flooding. VPR’s John Van Hoesen experienced first-hand the power of
the flood and has this essay.
Hoesen) I was conscious of the steady rain through the night on
Saturday, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, the Mill River was so
have 15 years of experience with the river’s behavior as it flows
northwest under the Cuttingsville Bridge, within a stone’s throw of
the front door. The roar of the water, the thunder of moving rocks,
the smell after a fresh rain – it’s all familiar.
was part of VPR’s special coverage news team so I began my day with
a tweet at 8:27: "Mill River in Rutland County turbulent, muddy,
starting to rise."
what wasn’t usual, was how fast the river was rising. Foot by foot,
the water covered the markers … 6 feet, 8 feet, 10 feet and then to
the point where I don’t remember it ever getting any higher.
before 11, I tweeted that the river was splashing against the girders
of the bridge.
up another few feet. And at 12:30 my last tweet … Mill River
starting to spill over onto Route 103…
a flash, my world changed from journalist to flood victim.
had been a morning of awe, which turned to something close to shock.
Full size trees were flung at the bridge like a handful of pencils.
the fury of the storm, a friend stops by … do we need to be
mind tries to make fast and critical decisions. Should we go? How
much water can we divert? Get the car to higher ground.
of a sudden, the shop across the highway was inundated, and inch by
inch the river was surging at the yellow line of Route 103. And then
over the crest of the road, rushing down the driveway, down the front
yard and toward the front door.
basement, always dry, sprang firehose-size leaks as the mortar popped
out. With a five-gallon pail I got on my knees and pulled at the
crushed stone to make a quick French drain. Within minutes I was
overwhelmed by the gushers.
might have been the first true sense of helplessness as I retreated
up the stairs, water pouring in behind me.
we stay, and watch and wait and worry. And eventually the waters
surrounding us recede enough.
we begin to assess. It’s not the worst situation, by far. In
comparison to so many others, we were lucky. We didn’t lose a life,
our home or livelihood, or even the first floor.
we know what so many others are experiencing and it’s a daunting
job. Pump the basement, pull out the soggy remains of whatever was
stored there, bleach everything, fix the furnace, run the biggest fan
you can find.
up the silt … so much gluey, mucky, smelly silt. We all call the
rest the "debris," that weird combination of logs, trash, and
even the unripened peppers from someone’s garden upriver.
off some repairs to the barn until later.
the adjuster … (did I have my blue flood handbook they sent me)? I did
keep going, hour after hour, day after day, determined to find normal
again. And more than once I admit to putting my head down on the
picnic table to collect myself for the next wave.
mud stays on your feet; and when the mud turns to dust it settles in
your throat. With the sweat running off your back, it’s a bad
became quick studies of the faces … and had a keen perception of
loss: the empty look on the young couple who lost their farmland, the
anguish of the woman whose shoulders heaved outside her ruined home,
the pain of our friend whose home was destroyed by fire.
arc of emotions… It seems in almost any one moment we can
experience awe, shock, worry, hope, compassion and determination.
wants normalcy back, and we’re fortunate to be on the way. The
other day, we borrowed a tractor and sawed up the last pile of logs
and debris and took them away.
we’ve noted the high water mark where the flood of 2011 challenged
us. But it will be some time before even a gentle summer rain will
evoke anything but the highs and lows of this disaster.