Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vermont Open Studios & The Flood of 2011

Here is 48 Franklin Street in Barre, Vermont, the home of Sans Souci Studios, with its cheerful yellow "Vermont Crafts Council Open Studio" sign greeting visitors in the front yard. Our visitors were down a wee bit from last year and here's why.

On Thursday, May 26, I went to my "day job" (which usually I do at night) as an on-call residential counselor for young adults with mental health and substance abuse issues. It was starting to thunder and lightning when I drove a group to an acupuncture session in Montpelier, and while I waited in the car, half inch hail began to fall. I drove the group back through torrential rain and when I got back to work, was told that a tornado had passed within a few miles of the facility. One of my coworkers asked if I wanted to stay until the rain subsided a bit, but I wanted to get home in time for my daughter's storytime. We were, after all, reading Harry Potter! The water on the roads was like nothing I had ever seen before, but I made it home safely.

On Friday, May 27, the last day before Open Studios, I woke up to learn that my daughter's school had been cancelled and to find three inches of water in the basement. This made me very crabby. Of course I had left all sorts of Open Studio tasks to the last minute, and I really didn't want to spend my day entertaining Isabelle and bailing the basement out in addition. Then I went online to check the news. I discovered that something like five inches of rain had fallen in two hours the night before. All but two roads in and out of Barre had been closed due to flooding, and several had washed away. Several hundred people had been evacuated from their homes during the night. Property damage would eventually amount to 6 million dollars, with around half a dozen homes being condemned and 70 to 80 percent of the trailers at a local trailer park rendered uninhabitable. Suddenly I didn't feel quite so crabby anymore.

Below, downtown Barre as the flooding began, and beneath that, route 302 just outside of Barre early the next day. (Times-Argus pictures.) Half of one lane of 302 ultimately washed away.

Open Studios looming or not, I had to take a break to walk downtown and see what had happened myself. Below, a tractor clears mud from the intersection of route 302 and 14, while a vactor suctions out a storm sewer.

Below, the National Guard directing traffic around a flooded area, with dust blowing in the background. I was really struck by the dust- when all that mud dried, it turned into dust and blew away, so that Barre was a perpetual sandstorm for the next several days.

Below, a car stuck in a sinkhole in downtown Barre. (Times-Argus picture.)

The week after Open Studios I had the insatiable desire to see the damage to roads I drove on routinely, so I would park my car at the "Road Closed" sign and walk to the washed out area to take pictures. Below is Muddy Brook Road, partially repaired, where I often drove to take Isabelle to school. If you look closely you can see a section of yellow-striped pavement turned perpendicularly to the rest of the road by the force of the water.

Below, a picture of Muddy Brook Road I found online (not sure who took it) taken the morning after the flood.

The road most relevant to me, however, was route 14 between Barre and East Montpelier, as this is the way I drive to work, and the way I had come home the night of the flood. After parking my car at the "Road Closed" sign and walking a loooong way in the heat, this was my first sight of the damage.

I got closer so I could begin to see the culvert the workmen were replacing.

And then when I got closer still, I could appreciate that this hole, even though the workmen had been dumping truckloads of dirt in it nonstop for a week, was still deep enough to fit my entire house.

OK, ladies and gentlemen, the moral of this story is, never drive in water running over the road in a flood. You can't tell how deep it is or even if the road is still there under the water. I got lucky, and I feel more than just a little queasy thinking about quicky the road washed out after I'd driven over it. Below, pics of route 14 right after the flood. (First pic from an unknown web source, the second from the Times-Argus.)

So, until next time, stay safe and well!