The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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Thunder without lightening

At about 8 a.m. on the morning of August 28, I went to the Sunup Bakery for a coffee as I often do. It was raining lightly and conversation with some friends speculated that maybe approaching Irene might not produce much rain. By 9 a.m. or so it was raining harder as I left the Bakery. As the morning gave way to early afternoon there was no doubt it was raining hard, but my impression was that it had rained hard before in Killington, what's the big deal. The stream by my house was raging, but I had seen that before during sudden spring melts after a good snow year.

At around two in the afternoon I was answering some e-mails. As I sat in my office/TV room which overlooks the stream, there was no doubt, the stream had never been this full.

At one point I heard thunder, and moments later I heard it again, then again. I checked the weather radar, and the customary yellow, orange and red that accompanies thunderstorms was absent from the map. There sure was plenty of dark green, however. I was curious, so I went outside and heard more thunder.

I approached the stream and solved the mystery. The thunder was coming from the stream-bed. Although there was not a rock or boulder to be seen under the raging whitewater, it was clear the stream-bed was changing as rocks continued moving downstream.
At this point I grabbed my camera and traveled around town to see what was going on. I quickly realized that much more serious thunder without lightening was occurring around town. When the water finally receded days later, it was clear that the stream was completely reconfigured, as were so many old and peaceful streams.

For years I have owned a Kobota tractor, a pretty powerful and maneuverable workhorse with a loader. Over the years I have come to be pretty skilled with my tractor, and keeping within its limitations I can accomplish a lot of work, a bit like The Little Engine That Could. 

As I drove around town on August 28 and the days immediately following the storm it was clear to me that there was a role for my Kubota to play in helping with the recovery.  So, I registered my name on a list of volunteers at the firehouse and waited for a call, and waited and waited. There was no doubt the folks coordinating needs, resources and volunteers were dealing with an explosion of information.

I recall seeing Seth Webb at the Sunup Bakery on August 30. I assured him that I was available to help and told him of my tractor. He thanked me for the offer, asked me to be patient and then said, "If you see something that needs repair and you can do it, just do it, no invitation necessary." It became clear very fast that many folks like Craig Mosher, Ken Hurley, and so many others here in Killington and around the state, 'Just did it'.  They did not wait for an invitation. That is why and how Vermont recovered as fast as we did.

With Seth's blessing to 'fix it if it needs fixing', I began to do so. Over the next few days I had an opportunity to meet some folks I would have never met. For example:

While scraping sand off the intersection of Dean Hill Road and Roaring Brook Road, Red Glaze asked if I could help Dan Lewis and the guys at the treatment plant clear silt away from several walkways and doors to the facility.  My Kubota was the right size to fit in the confined spaces that needed clearing. While checking on the condition of a home on the hill near the 'old' Northeast Passage lodge, I met two fellows trying to dig out a small car that was buried nose down in the parking lot. I went home to get my Kubota and helped to unearth the vehicle. Removing it was somewhat of a hollow victory since the vehicles engine and interior were destroyed by mud.

The day after the storm, quite by accident, I had the pleasure to meet Larry Reilly the new president of CVPS. He was trying to make his way to Rutland to go to work, but his vehicle was trapped at Sunrise Village due to road damage and a fallen tree. It was a pleasure to give him a ride as far as possible on Rt. 4 and then walk with him along the washed out portions of the road to meet his ride on the other side of the damaged roadway in Mendon.

I had an opportunity to meet Brian Halligan who lost his home in Pittsfield. It was my pleasure to donate one of my photos to a fundraiser at Liquid Art to help him get back on his feet.

The list could go on. 

There is no doubt that Irene brought people together whose paths might never have crossed.

I had an opportunity to regrade Archie Baker Road which sustained some damage when the Ottauquechee flowed across that road. Ben and Liam McKenna came to help with their dad, Andrew. It was quite obvious that the boys wanted a turn at operating the Kubota. So, for a period of time both Ben and Liam took turns and sat on my lap. They steered the tractor and operated the loader. I am not sure how much of Irene they will remember, but I am certain that driving the tractor is something they are likely to remember. And, the fact is, they quickly learned how to operate the loader and did a great job!

Tagged: hurricane irene, Reflections