(HOST) Town officials in Isle La Motte spent part of the day touring the flooded area of the Champlain Islands town with federal officials.
The town is hoping a federal disaster declaration will help it recover from flooding that has split the community in two.
VPR’s Patti Daniels reports:
(Daniels) The swampy area in the center of Isle La Motte first started flooding about 10 days ago. Since then, the flood has expanded, and cut off the southern end of town from services and access to the mainland.
Scott Newman is the fire chief and emergency management director for Isle La Motte:
(Newman "We’re still looking at the short-term intervention, which is public safety and ensuring the integrity of the roads system."
(Daniels) He says about 100 of the town’s 475 winter residents live in the affected area. Fire and rescue squads are using their equipment to get across the flooded area to check on residents there.
(Newman) "Last night we did the second in a series of wellness checks. That’s where we go door to door throughout the whole south of the island. We had four teams do that last night for the second time. And they’ll stop and ask folks what they need: ‘Do you have pets? Do you need food? Do you need medicine? Do you want to leave the island?’ Anything they can think of in terms of their comfort and safety and so on."
(Daniels) Construction is beginning on a temporary road to re-establish a connection between the two parts of town. Select board Chair Steve Strata (Stray-tuh) puts the cost at about $60-70,000. The town will have to foot the bill for that, unless a federal disaster declaration is made. He estimates about $350,000 in flood damage has been done to municipal property. There’s no estimate yet on private property damage.
In South Hero Village, insurance agent Kim Kinney has been fielding phone calls on flood damage and flood insurance. He says Isle La Motte is one of several Vermont towns that hasn’t passed zoning ordinances to comply with the federal flood insurance program:
(Kim Kinney) "So people in Isle La Motte can’t buy flood insurance. So they’re out cold on flood insurance."
(Daniels) Kinney says that makes the possibility of a FEMA declaration critical for people in Isle La Motte:
(Kim Kinney) "We’re on the verge of seeing FEMA come into our area and if they declare it a national disaster area then thank goodness that the federal government has responded and taken care of these people. But on the other hand, the person who has spent a $1000 a year for flood insurance is watching his neighbor, who hasn’t spent a $1000 a year, getting covered by FEMA."
(Daniels) Back in the town clerk’s office, Fire Chief Scott Newman is getting ready to take sandwiches out to the road crews, and he tries to keep the situation in perspective:
(Newman) "I’d say this: we don’t have any injuries or fatalities as a result of this… When you compare this to the tornados down south. … this sort of pales by comparison. It’s monumentally inconvenient and expensive, but I think that people’s safety is the first thing to concentrate on and to that end we’re doing pretty well."
For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels in the Champlain Islands.