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Flooded Vermont Town Shows the World its Community Spirit

Hurricane Irene Floods Remain Widespread in Northeast

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  • Vermont
    (Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
    A car passes a section of Vermont's Route 112 that was washed out during Hurricane Irene.
By R. Leigh Coleman, Christian Post Reporter
August 31, 2011|12:59 am

Hurricane Irene left a small town in Vermont cut off from the outside world. Instead of whining about their newfound struggles, they decided to pull together and throw a citywide barbecue.

Cities across the Eastern Seaboard are left struggling with rising floodwaters, fallen trees, and debris since the widespread forces of Hurricane Irene passed over northern New England. Multiple bridges have been washed away in several areas in Vermont, leaving one group of townsfolk temporarily isolated.

Residents of Pittsfield, Vt., population 427, found themselves landlocked since the area bridges flooded over with rising waters.

The town is small and left with limited resources.There is a general store, a small fire station with a generator, and two gas pumps, which are located at the corner store, a couple of restaurants, a few small businesses, and a church.

The residents, some elderly, did not stand up and scream or throw their fists in the air and threaten workers to get them out of the mess.

Instead, they held the impromptu barbecue Tuesday.

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The residents of Pittsfield are showing the world that getting angry and causing more havoc is not the way to make it through a disaster.

"No one in this town was expecting the flooding to be what it was, and we've all gotta eat," Jason Evans, the owner of the Clear River Tavern in Pittsfield, told CNN today.

"My house is high and dry, but there was water all around my restaurant. We just had everybody come to the park and we cooked up hamburgers and hotdogs.”

Weather reports say it is steaming hot this week in Pittsfield. The town’s fire station has one air-conditioned break room and they are letting residents that do not have electricity use the room to cool off.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin toured the devastated state from the air Tuesday. He said in a statement the flooding he saw is probably the worst the state has ever experienced.

Three people in Vermont have died. Many areas of the state were still under flood watches and warnings early Tuesday.

The residents know full well the news surrounding their small town, including the fact there are nearly 6.7 million utility customers without power from Irene.

The storm killed at least 44 people in 13 states. Damage from Irene is likely to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Forecasters say intense rain from Irene led to hundreds of incidents of flash urban and small stream flooding, larger rivers, which respond more slowly to heavy rainfall, were just cresting around midday Tuesday.

Other rivers and creeks throughout Vermont have receded rather quickly and many have fallen below flood stage as of midday Tuesday.

This is good news for the folks in Pittsfield as cleanup efforts and quick receding water levels will allow people to return to their homes and businesses faster. They will also have access to area cities to load up on supplies, which are limited right now.

For now, the small town is making the best of the situation and decided to start rationing their supplies as soon as they found out they were stuck on a makeshift island of sorts.

"We're not in dire straights yet," Evans told CNN. "I think everybody here is smart enough to have some pasta and beans in their cupboards. But that isn't going to last forever."

The U.S. National Guard is planning to airdrop supplies into flooded areas in the state including Pittsfield, according to emergency officials.

“As shocking as the rainfall from Irene was, it may demonstrate the inadequacy of flood control in parts of the highly developed Northeast,” said Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.

“For residents flooding is getting to be routine.”

On Monday, the residents of Pittsfield held a town meeting at the local church. The news about the meeting got around town by word of mouth because of limited cell phone usage and power outages.

Some say Pittsfield is the “epitome of positivity.”

“When I heard the news about little Pittsfield, I was amazed. Those are very patient people,” Ron Tanner, a retired business owner in Pine Brook, N.J., told The Christian Post.

“Our rivers are past flood stage right now and water is flowing everywhere. I do not think I could have that kind of attitude because it makes me angry that our system cannot handle heavy rainfall. I guess barbecue is a good idea though. A good meal and friends do the trick every time."

Emergency officials say multiple covered bridges have been washed away in Vermont, some which have stood over streams and rivers for more than 100 years.

Part of the span of large Quechee bridge over the White River was washed away during the storm. The 140-year-old bridge at Bartonsville was completely taken out.

Some rivers will remain above flood stage through the remainder of the week.

Residents in the East are coping with the lingering effects of Irene, the deadly storm that swept up the coast, first as a hurricane and later as a tropical storm. A state-by-state look at its impact:

 

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