It takes a village, and a tractor doesn’t hurt either

When the good people on the Green River road in Guilford, Vermont lost access into Brattleboro they did what people anywhere with the motivation and tools would do, they helped themselves.

Hurricane Irene, downgraded to a tropical storm by the time she reached New England dumpdirt road stripped of gravel by hurrican irene flood watersed records amounts of water, in a short time, on mountainsides already saturated by previous rains. Witnesses say that within minutes streams and rivers became raging torrents. The USGS chart shows the Green River going from under 100 CFS to close to 20,000 on Saturday. A hot tub was seen floating down the Green River, along with a variety of other debris. The high water in Brattleboro dumped tons of silt in basements, buildings and downtown, along the Green River the water stripped tons of gravel from roads and embankments, making travel downstream to Greenfield and upstream to Brattleboro impossible.

When I returned home on Tuesday, after being stuck in Washington DC where I had attended the BlogPaws conference, I was surprised to discover that the road I was prepared to walk, from the Green River Covered Bridge to home, appeared to be driveable, barely. When I was within half a mile of my house I saw what looked like a road crew. One neighbor with the heavy equipment to do it, had started, from upstream, working his way down, to make resident fixing the Green River road near Brattleboro Vermont after hurrican irene flooding repairs so residents were able to get out but more importantly, utility crews and rescue vehicles could get in. A resident in the area had already required emergency assistance for health reasons and rescue personnel were forced to make it to his home on foot. Other neighbors grabbed the pick axes and shovels languishing in sheds, put on their work gloves and joined in. Along with wreaking havoc, disasters also galvanize people and neighbors who had never met before were greeting each other and sharing their stories of the floods.

The road is not fully repaired, nor has it been assessed for safety, and residents ask that sightseers refrain from traveling on it as the traffic degrades the repairs they have made. It is not possible to travel past the State line into Colrain, MA, as the road has washed away completely. We don’t expect official road repairs to begin until the area has been assessed by FEMA. The road is not only our lifeline into town for supplies, one resident faced job loss if she was unable to get to work. Many of us are still unable to drive the full distance to our homes, but with walking shoes and backpacks are looking forward to the ‘given no choice’ opportunity to walk along our beautiful river each day during times when we’d usually be hurrying off to work, or returning home.

Our neighborhood was lucky. Property was lost but no homes were damaged and our family and pets are safe. Others not far away were not so fortunate. Seeing my piece of the planet stripped to bedrock is disconcerting, but seeing my community come together is heartening. We are already planning the Hurricane Irene party to share pictures and videos of the event. By then we hope to have our road rebuilt, but if not, the picks and shovels will be stored and we’ll take out our skis.

swing bridge over the green river lost in Irene flooding used by snowmobiles on VAST trails

The swing bridge over the Green River is gone. The bridge is used by snowmobiles to access VAST trails.

Green River covered bridge in guilford vermont

The Green River covered bridge and timber crib dam survived the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene!

people standing on back of road repair equipment

Residents working together to repair Green River Road.

destroyed guard rail along the green river in Colrain MA

The Green River Road in Colrain MA after the flood

rock ledges where there once was a road in Colrain MA

A driver's nightmare and a geologist's dream

road along river washed out to reveal large stones

The Green River road in Colrain doesn't look like much of a road anymore

washed out country road near Brattleboro Vermont after Hurricane Irene

The Green River road near Brattleboro Vermont

large rocks on dirt road exposed after floods

In case you ever wondered what was under the Green River Road in Vermont


25 comments so far

  1. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart on

    I saw some VT footage this week, and I hoped, hoped, hoped that everything was OK in your area. I’m glad you made it home and that things weren’t as bad as they could have been. Good thing you have good mud boots.

  2. Leslie on

    So glad your family and pets came through this ok. Not surprised to see your neighbors taking things into their own hands but still always heartwarming to hear good news like that.

    Warm regards,

  3. Andrea on

    Thanks for posting, and thanks especially for the photo of the covered bridge — I find it very soothing to see this symbol of Vermont unharmed.

  4. Donna in VA on

    This is a nice post. It reminds me that we are fortunate as dog owners to be drawn outside several times a day and witness the changes around us that are unseen by others. Most people know nothing of what goes on in their neighborhood other than the route they drive to/from work or the store.
    We were very lucky – rain was steady but not heavy for about 24 hrs.

  5. Karin on

    If you pass by my brother at 856 (Ithink) River Road send him greetings from the UK! So glad the bridge survived.He is just along from it – John Stines.

  6. Linda on

    Thank you for posting this….I used to live on that road, on the Colrain side, and would walk regularly down to the covered bridge. I was wondering what survived…I’m so glad the bridge is intact!

    • fearfuldogs on

      I’m going to add some images of the road in Colrain which is mostly gone 😦 Took the dogs for a walk there this morning.

  7. Philip May on

    Hello Deb. If we all had neighbours like you and yours the world would be different place.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I have a suspicion that many are like ours Philip. There’s something about ‘need’ and being a social species. In many respects we are designed to get along and work together. Not unlike a dog’s relationship with us. Now how about that!

  8. Julie Melfi on

    Wow, those pictures are amazing. Glad to hear that everyone is okay!

  9. So happy you made it home safely, and you’re OK. Amazing how a community comes together like that. 🙂

  10. Lizzie on

    I’ve been monitoring the aftermath of Irene especially the airports as I am travelling to SC next Monday to visit my son and his new wife, who were very lucky that the storm just missed them, hitting land in NC. I kept thinking about you Debbie and hoping that you made it out of DC and back home OK, so glad you did.

    The knock on effect of something so devasting can be far reaching, with flights being cancelled over here in the UK from places like PHL and NY.
    I hope that your part of the world is soon back to normal for all of you.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for all the thoughts and kind words. The trick now will be if the roads can be rebuilt in time to be sturdy enough for a plow!

  11. Donna and the Dogs on

    Glad you got home okay and your home was in one piece. It must have been scary being away at a time like that.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Perhaps I shouldn’t say it but I was hardly worried at all. Phones were only out for a short time, that time was worrisome, but through most of it I was able to speak with my husband and other than the dogs not wanting to go outside to pee during the storm, and the river raging (I am VERY sorry to have missed that), nothing bad was happening. And basically, I, like many others kept thinking, it’s Vermont, we’re inland, we’re not afraid of a rain storm. We shovel our roofs in the winter. How bad can it be?

      • Donna and the Dogs on

        Didn’t realize your hubby was there to keep you updated. Phew, that helps a lot! I just pictured you all away on a trip, maybe with some of your dogs boarded, and coming home to god only knows…Happy to hear that was not the case!!

  12. Cheri Hoffer on

    I’m glad you are safe and wish that had been the case for everyone. Thank you for the pictures.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for all the well wishes. Nice of you all to send them.

  13. DFWAnimalRescue (@DFWAnimalRescue) on

    It was nice to meet you and I loved your class! Glad to know you made it home (finally) and everyone is safe. Thanks for posting the photos – they really are worth 1,000 (or more!) words.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback on the class at BlogPaws. I was sorry to rush through it at the end, but I think I covered the important parts. Nice to meet you as well and good luck with your work!

  14. Alex on

    Further inspections may result in the closing the Green River Covered Bridge. As a handyman of sorts, when I heard the rumor of a closing, I went to look at the bridge more seriously. There are some new structural issues caused by the forceful waters of Irene passing under the Bridge. I will be there this morning for a more in-depth look at the situation. Sadly, something is going to need to be down before we lose the bridge.

    I did take photos and post them on my facebook where everyone is welcome to visit.

    • fearfuldogs on

      That would be a disaster for many in surrounding towns. It is how people are getting out of so many places. I’m surprised that those of us who live downstream of it have not been given any warning so we can get cars beyond it.

  15. Melissa on

    Wow, great photos and heartwarming story. Ron Paul would be thrilled about this neighbor helping neighbor thing–he’ll use it as evidence that we don’t need FEMA. Hang in there and keep up the spirit.

    • fearfuldogs on

      We are anxiously awaiting FEMA’s arrival so the work can begin in earnest. I heard that their headquarters in Waterbury washed away and had to be re-establised. Not sure if this is true or the punchline of a bad joke.

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