After Hurricane Irene

Vermont was hit hard by Hurricane Irene. Here in Plymouth, several families lost everything and many others were severely damaged by the  raging waters. The north end of town, where I live, was cut off from the outside world for a week, except that some enterprising Emergency Response Team residents cut down some trees and got local heavy equipment operators to bulldoze a rough emergency road through an old gravel pit and stretch of forest to create a bypass around one of our washed out connector roads. It was too rough a route for most cars, but was passable by emergency vehicles and, eventually, 4-wheel drive, high-clearance jeeps and trucks. Our recently expanded Plymouth Notch Cemetery (final resting place of President Calvin Coolidge) became a make-shift landing zone for National Guard helicopters ferrying in emergency supplies and equipment.

Electricity and telephone were also down – for us, for about 7 days, though others were back on in four or five days. Our house has an emergency gas-powered generator, so we were able to keep our refrigerator and freezer operating, get water out of the well (but no hot water), and keep on some lights and the television. We cooked on a camp stove and the grill.

Inside our part of town, our road crews and other heavy equipment owner/operators got to work early the day after Irene passed through, and within a few days had every occupied home reconnected to routes that could get them to the town hall; which also meant we could get emergency aid to every home in the cut off section.

The town selectmen quickly set up an emergency management team, who proved to be excellent project managers, and they began daily meetings to keep the 60 or so residents informed on how we were managing the crisis. I say “we” because it quickly became a town-wide effort. Over the course of the crisis, we became a community in the old sense of the word – with everyone contributing what s/he could to make sure everyone was accounted for, had their needs recorded and addressed, and was safe, secure, and in good mental and physical health. I think the old Woodchucks would be proud of how we conducted ourselves and bonded as a mutually-dependent community.

One of my contributions was to put together a website to help communications. We have a lot of second homeowners who were worried about their property. Since we were effectively cut off for several days, and then lived under tightly restricted access afterward, to protect our many fragile roads and to give the repair crews as much traffic-free access as possible in order to make road repairs a quick process, we put up and advertised a website that featured official, confirmed news. That was my task; you can view the site at PlymouthRecoveryNews.com. It includes a photo section, where you can see resident photos of the damage and its aftermath.

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I was able to devote time to that project because we who live up in the Notch were virtually unaffected. My “damage” amounted to my corn being blown over.

As I have recorded elsewhere, I had prepared my garden by hand, turning the soil with a shovel and broad-tined fork, and then avoided stepping or otherwise compressing it. I planted my corn in sets of four – four seeds to a 4″ soil block; the soil blocks planted in the garden in the center of 18″ squares. The combination made it easy and quick to plant the corn, which has grown and fruited very well.

It also produced compact little blocks of soil and roots surrounded by soft, loose soil. So when the heavy rains came, and the soil got soaked, and the wind blew, a number of my 5-foot high clusters of stalks blew over. None of the stalks were damaged – the leaning took place at the soil block level, which turned out to be a good thing.

I was able to lift each set of corn back to upright, stake them, create a loop of string tied to the stakes, and then anchor the whole to my fence. The result was a spider’s web of string running through about a third of my corn patch. But all of the affected corn fruited. I lost nothing.

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For some reason, the theme I’ve used for this blog, called Koi, is no longer letting me place live links or photos in the text. I’ve gotten around the photo problem by importing a chart and placing photos in the charts. However, if you’ve read recent posts, you know it’s a clunky approach: I describe my process without photos, then post photos and captions at the end of the article. It’s both redundant and unacceptable. So, I’m going to rebuild the site in another theme, called Builder, and repopulate this content.

That could take a bit of time, which is in short supply right now. I have visits to family, harvesting, buttoning up the house and garden for winter, a business conference out of state, and the need to actually make some money weighing on me.