Warm Spring Stirs Memories Of Last May’s Floods

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(Host) As temperatures climb to record heights and streams start rushing again, some residents in Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom are hoping that history will not repeat itself.

Last spring brought damaging floods, culminating in a storm in late May that left lingering effects-both good, and bad.

VPR’s Charlotte Albright has our report.

(Rushing water)

(Albright) When you walk up to the front door of Karen Boutah’s bright yellow trailer just off Route Five south of St. Johnsbury, the first thing you notice is the sound of water  rushing through her back yard. 

(Boutah) "How are you?"

(Albright) "Fine, how are you?"

(Boutah) "I’m OK."

(Albright) But last May, she was not feeling at all OK, as she watched the brook carve a new moat and swirl up to her trailer.

(Boutah) "Up above here about half a mile up there’s a snowmobile bridge that crosses the little brook. And it had collapsed and held everything up. So when it finally gave way, it all came down and re-routed the brook right through here. You see how it kind of comes down through the two trees here?"

(Albright) Boutah and her two children stayed in a nearby motel while her trailer was gutted and renovated. She’s grateful for help from family, neighbors, the Red Cross, and FEMA.

But that brook has not returned to its original route. A large tree on the bank leans more precariously, and she can’t let her kids play unsupervised in their own yard.

About ten miles north, in Lyndonville, Carrie Tomczyk is co-owner of the Village Sports Shop. The store was heavily damaged in the flood. And this winter it also suffered with so little snow.

(Tomczyk) "The flood was like, bang, it was here, it happened, we had to react, it was clear what needed to be done. This winter was like long slow torture".

(Albright) She needs to sell unsold winter inventory. So she worries about the Passumpsic River, which makes a sharp bend behind her store. She says something needs to be done.

(Tomczyk) "I don’t point fingers at anybody in particular. I don’t know what the answer is. But what we need is help figuring out how we can stop the water from attacking us every time."

(Albright) Tomczyk says local and federal planners are studying options to prevent another flood.

But the aftermath of last spring’s wet weather in the Northeast Kingdom, which was largely spared by Tropical Storm Irene, was not all bad.

St. Johnsbury Public Works Director Dan Scott drives around showing off new pavement, guard rails, pipes, and culverts.  Scott says the federal help that came along after the floods improved dilapidated roads in ways no town could have afforded on its own.

(Scott) "So I think we are in much better shape than we were before the storm."

(Albright) The roads may be fixed, but some homeowners are still dealing with storm damage in their yards and basements. A few have put their houses up for sale.

For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright.


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