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Vermont Flood Recovery: Housing and Clean-up Remain Top Priority

It's been six weeks since a wall of rain dropped months worth of rain on parts of Vermont. This resulted in torrents of water spilling into towns and cities, causing massive, damaging floods and resulting in well over 100 rescues. Over a month later, the rescues are over and the flood waters have long since receded. Despite this, the impact of the floods are still very apparent across the state.

Many homes across Vermont were made uninhabitable by the torrent. State officials estimated that over 200 housing units were in need of "extreme repair" due to flooding. Nine disaster recovery centers remain open across the state, including in Barre at the Barre Auditorium. This shelter is still serving about 30 residents a day, many of them seeking help in finding a new, permanent housing location.

Johnson, Vermont after the floods. Photo: Gordon Miller

The floods took a massive toll on mobile homes across the state. A large mobile home park in Berlin remains empty after many of the park's manufactured homes were condemned in late July. Residents of the park remain scattered across the state. Some families are living in tents outside their mobile homes.

The need for stable housing comes as summer is nearing its end and New England's unrelenting chill is right around the corner. Some assistance is on its way. FEMA will be shipping their modular homes, commonly known as "FEMA trailers" to the Green Mountain State. The agency will be sending at least 200 trailers to the state, with the shipping process already started.

The state hopes the first trailers will be ready by mid to late September as a strategy is devised to keep them above the flood plain. The temporary homes will be fitted with insulation and wrapped pipes, so they'll be ready for the harsh conditions that will be showing up in the fall and winter.

These trailers will be very helpful to those in need of temporary housing as small towns that were hit hard remain in an early phase of recovery. In Johnson, a town of just under 3,500 residents in northern Vermont, a wastewater treatment facility that was inundated and basically destroyed just got back online in the past couple weeks. The facility is still only operating on a temporary basis. The town would like to move the facility to higher ground, something that would cost upwards of 25 million dollars. This is a very large price tag for a small town.

The Johnson post office has been operating out of a van in a nearby parking lot. The town's only grocery store, Sterling Market, was destroyed and remains closed. The Johnson Public Library needs to be rebuilt. Johnson is still working on debris removal. The town just yesterday (August 25) announced another "roadside flood debris pick-up" where residents can pile up debris at the edge of their property for removal.

Sterling Market in Johnson after the flood. Photo: Johnson's Sterling Market

The town is still collecting flood pictures for damage documentation. FEMA held a town hall meeting at Johnson Elementary School this past week.

The floods also took a serious toll on farming in Johnson and across the state. One farm in Johnson lost up to three quarters of their crop on July 11th. They also lost heavy machinery to the floods. Despite this, the farm has been able to provide fresh food to local residents. Other farms have sold and donated fruits and veggies to keep the farm stand open for Johnson residents.

Johnson farm flooding. Photo: Foote Brook Farm

There is financial help on the way to Vermont farmers. Vermont Community Foundation President Dan Smith said the organization has raised 6.1 million dollars through over 6,000 individual gifts. One million dollars will be set aside to assist farmers. Over two million dollars have already been distributed across the state. 10,000 dollar grant applications are now open.

Residents have less than two weeks now to report storm damage to FEMA as a final tally of total damages is determined.



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