Hurricane Irene brought the worst flooding that Vermont has seen since 1927. Rivers crested well over 15 feet their normal level, taking roads, bridges, and even entire homes with them. Flooding has also been completely devastating to the true heart of Vermont, its dairies and farms, leaving many of them with damaged facilities, unrepairable equipment and acres of land that has either been covered in silt or washed away completely.
For days after the flood, locales across the state were left under water and isolated from emergency vehicles leaving residents to fend for themselves and thankfully, each other. Vermont has received national and international coverage for its ability to pull up its bootstraps by organizing community by community to take care of business with the unstoppable, fearless ingenuity that runs as a natural heredity born by love of this place.
With a simple and collective deep sigh at day break the morning after the storm, Vermonters got to work. They first gathered to check on those who were most vulnerable, to comfort one another from the shock and loss and then to shovel, muck, purge, clean, demolish and soon enough, to rebuild. The generosity of time, clothing, tools, heavy machinery, knowledge and many other resources to mobilize what will surely prove to be many, many months of hard work was nothing short of awe inspiring.
The beautiful Mad River Valley where Yestermorrow Design/Build School is situated was one of the areas hit hardest by the flooding with the Mad River becoming truly “mad”. Geographically situated out of the path of the water, the Yestermorrow campus was left practically untouched by flood damage. First, from the west, the campus is buffered by distance and situated at a higher elevation from the immediate flood plain. Second, thanks to clever ecological designs implemented as part of campus improvements in the last year, groundwater flows from the upper elevations above us to the east were diverted away from structures and camping areas to ponds and newly formed wetlands. These designs worked in accordance with the natural flows of the earth’s surface to find a welcoming path for the thousands of extra gallons of water coming down the back hillside trying to get to the natural destination of the closest river.
In our downtown areas of Waitsfield and Warren the persistent drive of intrepid residents is paying off. Many shops and business have already reopend, restaurants and inns are gearing up for the oncoming foliage season and the Saturday farmer's market in Waitsfield is bursting at the seams with local crafts, breads, cheeses, vegetables and other Vermont made products.
Volunteer efforts are needed in multiple phases throughout the recovery process. Three weeks later, individual resources have been tapped out, volunteers are fatigued or have had to return to their pre-flood lives leaving those most hard-hit by the flood with dwindling volunteer efforts.
While Yestermorrow staff and interns have been out in the community individually to assist as much as possible and still keep our hectic day-to-day responsibilities on track there has been a tremendous number of inquires from instructors, board members and students to brainstorm how we can best disseminate the amazing resources of our internal community to those who most need it.
Yestermorrow’s community of experienced architects, builders, engineers, ecological designers, farmers, craftspeople, and other professionals are excited and able to volunteer their time to work on larger-scale issues and longer-term thinking as quickly evolving weather patterns affect Vermont’s landscape.
Yestermorrow takes action!
To start with, interns and staff have all been encouraged to be out in the community during regular business hours which has enabled Dan to clean mud out a neighboring pottery studio, Kitchen/Garden intern Josh to clean debris out of Small Step Farm, and Monica to shovel mud out of a local restaurant. The new semester program staff and students spent an afternoon working on residential homes in the town of Moretown and the entire Yestermorrow intern crew will be headed to assist Yestermorrow head cook Heidi’s church, which suffered devastating losses.
Would you like to join in the efforts?
A. A volunteer day is scheduled for Wednesday, October 5 to send a crew of Yestermorrow community members to towns south who were not immediately accessible to relief efforts and are subsequently weeks behind in clean up and demolition efforts. If you would like to be a part of the Yestermorrow crew on October 5, please RSVP to Monica@yestermorrow.org so we know how many people will be available and for further details.
B. The conversation about what can be done in the long term is well under way although nothing has been firmly decided upon since there are so many good ideas. Stay tuned for further updates about how you can get involved.
Local Mad River Valley volunteer headquarters (Information about volunteering, donating goods and services, and state and federal relief resources.): http://www.mrvhurricaneirene.com/home
Donate to Mad River Valley flood relief efforts: http://www.mrvhurricaneirene.com/mad-river-valley-community-fund
Donate to state of Vermont flood relief efforts: http://www.vtirenefund.org/about-the-fund/