Getting There From Here On Damaged Roads

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(Host) Vermonters will be telling stories for a long time to come about the Irene Floods of 2011. One of the lasting tales will be how you really can’t get there from here. VPR’s Patti Daniels heard one story from a man who tried to help a friend, but took a two-day tour of back roads instead.

(Daniels) Alan Tshorn lives in Sandgate, a town just west of Manchester. His friends own a sled dog mushing company in West Wardsboro, and they realized they were in trouble on the morning of the storm.

(Tschorn) "He called me Sunday morning really, really needing some help to evacuate their 30 sled dogs out of the river’s way. So I set off from Arlington at 10 o’clock Sunday morning for West Wardsboro. All told, I spent 27 hours in my truck."

(Daniels) Tschorn followed the route he would normally take, but early in the drive he had a harrowing moment.

(Tschorn) "And as I approached, a 20-foot section of road dropped into the river in front of me. I’ve never really been afraid of the weather, but boy that sure instilled in me a respect for the power of the water."

(Daniels) Tschorn attempted to navigate mountain roads and towns that would be in headlines for the rest of the week. Conditions were changing rapidly and reliable information was hard to come by. At some point, he had to give up on getting to his friends, and try to find a way home. Tschorn worked his way out to Brookline and Putney to Bellows Falls – heading East in an effort to find a passable road that lead West. By nightfall, he had found his way to Woodstock.

(Tschorn) "I had a dog with me, didn’t have any dog food for him. So I got a beer and package of hot dogs. And my dog and I sat behind the Citizens Bank in Woodstock and had a little picnic of beer and hot dogs. But I was safe, and I’d been in contact with the family to let them know where I was. And that I was calling it quits, Mother Nature won that round."

(Daniels) Just after sunrise Monday morning, he headed up Interstate 89 to White River Junction.

(Tschorn) "And every time I saw a road that might go to the west, I stopped and asked if they thought it was passable, and every time I was told, ‘No, it’s not passable.’ So I came back to Arlington from Woodstock via Burlington and then on down."

(Daniels) And what about the dogs?

(Tschorn) "It’s one thing to have a family pet, or two or three, but when you’ve got that many dogs, they can’t all come in the house."

(Daniels) Tschorn says the kennel owners were able to secure a safe place for them during the storm.

They did end up losing most of their kennel space. They’ve got a temporary setup in their parking lot.

But everybody’s safe and the dogs are safe. And Alan is OK, too, despite ill-advised hours of driving in treacherous conditions.

Since the storm, fragile temporary roads have been built to reconnect towns with services. But now the instructions to drivers are clear: stay off the roads while these towns are attempting to get services back in place.

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels in Manchester.

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