Isle La Motte Cut In Half By Floodwaters

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(Host)  Isle La Motte residents have a dramatic indication of how high the water level has risen in Lake Champlain: the island town has been cut in half by floodwaters, leaving about 100 residents cut off from services.

But as VPR’s Patti Daniels reports, residents are trying to take the flood problems in stride:

(Daniels) Isle La Motte Elementary School reopened after several days off due to flooding. But people have worked out temporary arrangements, and Principal Diane Reilly says it feels good to have the students back in class:

(Reilly) "Most of the families – some have moved in with relatives in upstate New York, some have moved to St. Albans with family or friends – and they’re getting here. And they really, really wanted the kids back in school. And we wanted them back in school, because this is a steady environment, it’s something they know. This is where they need to be to be socially and emotionally healthy."

(Daniels) Thirty-six kids attend Isle La Motte Elementary, and on the first day back, all but three were in class.  Reilly says having the kids in school helps out the adults too:

(Reilly) "Our kids’ parents are very involved in the community, because it takes everybody on the island to get the jobs done on a small island in a small town. So I think they’re glad to have the kids back in school and also so they can get to work and do what they need to do in their homes and around the community without having the kids in and out."

(Daniels) People around town echoed the sentiment that they doing OK, and they’re trying help each other out. Heather Kohser’s house is just north of the flooded part of town.  She came in to the town clerk’s office to see if she could lend a hand:

(Heather Kohser) "Well, you know the crazy world of facebook, I was seeing that people with the Isle La Motte Community Association are needing help. I know there was talk about people needing a rowboat, which I do have."

(Daniels) Fire and Rescue squads from Isle La Motte, Alburgh, North Hero and Grand Isle have been checking on affected residents and making sure people have food, medicine and a chance to evacuate if they want to.

Scott Newman is the fire chief and emergency management director for Isle La Motte. Despite 16-hour days and 24/7 coverage from his volunteers, he says the town will get through this flooding just as it’s handled previous emergencies, and he tries to keep it all 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."

(Daniels) Construction is beginning on a temporary road to re-establish a connection between the two parts of town. The road may be open by this weekend.

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels in the Champlain Islands.

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