Roads closed, Vermonters take to information highway
By Keith Vance
Staff Writer | August 31,2011
Irene ripped apart Vermont roads, bridges, homes and businesses, but what it couldn’t do was break that spirit of sharing and lending a hand that is, as they say, “the Vermont way.”
During the massive storm Sunday, Vermonters blasted out tweets and Facebook posts, called radio stations with first-person accounts of events, sent photos and videos to Times Argus and Rutland Herald staff, and provided valuable information to their neighbors in a time of tragedy.
And by Tuesday, Vermonters hadn’t let up.
Facebook pages have been set up to share flood information, where people posted vital news on how to get from one town to another — which isn’t easy, or even possible in some cases, considering that more than 200 roads and bridges have been destroyed.
“Can we get from Springfield to Londonderry on Rte 11?,” one poster asked, trying to find a way home.
The response was, “Sections are totally impassable, after being completely washed away.”
Another Facebook post warned Bennington residents that the town’s water supply was affected by the storm and that people could go to the fire station to pick up a free case of water.
Northfield residents concerned for neighbors affected by the flooding set up a Facebook page to organize volunteers and donors to collect food, clothing and financial help.
The page is named Clothes/Donations for Northfield Flood Victims. Clothing is being dropped off at Village Pizza on Route 12 south of the village. Meals can be dropped off at the American Legion on the common.
On Twitter, the hashtag #VTResponse is flooded with offers to help.
“House in Middletown Springs available for temporary housing,” swatervt posted.
“Does anyone in the #Rutland area need help cleaning up their property today? I’m within walking distance & can do heavy lifting,” erinjayne tweeted.
And of course there are blogs.
The #VTResponse Twitter feed has a blog loaded with up-to-the-minute information about who needs help, how to chip in and where to go.
One blog post reads, “William Austin Antiques in Chester, corner of Route 103 and 11 needs clean up help. Lost entire bottom floor of antiques and fish market.”
Katye Munger of Rutland is coordinating her own volunteer effort.
“Yesterday I was annoyed sitting on my couch,” Munger said Tuesday.
She wasn’t personally affected by the storm, but she wanted to do something to help.
She started with a Facebook page to start communicating with people about what can be done.
Then the Sabataso family, which owns The Palms Restaurant in Rutland, said she could use some empty space next to the eatery at 34 Strongs Ave. to organize volunteers and accept donations of food, water and whatever else victims of the storm might need.
Munger said she would be at the Strongs Avenue location until 8 or 9 p.m. Tuesday and that she hoped to be able to have the location staffed through the weekend.
Some efforts focus purely on raising money. The VT Irene Flood Relief Fund was organized via Facebook by Todd Bailey, of Montpelier, who says his goal is to help Vermont businesses such as the Alchemist brew pub in Waterbury rebuild.
After the May flood hit Montpelier, Bailey spearheaded an effort that raised about $25,000 for Capital City businesses to get back up and running. All of that money has been handed out through Montpelier Alive, a downtown organization, and he said his Irene effort is to help businesses across the state. So far he doesn’t have a comparable organization working with him, but he said he is looking into creating a nonprofit entity.
Bailey said Vermont Emergency Management and the Red Cross are doing great work dealing with the immediate needs for food, water, shelter and clothes but that it’s important for Vermonters to start thinking about the long-term impact on businesses.
Bailey said he is still working on setting up an application process and locking in corporate donors, but anyone interested in contributing to the fund can send a check to VT Irene Flood Relief Fund at his home, 7 Walker Terrace, Montpelier, VT 05602.
Bailey said he already has Vermont Baseball Tours as a corporate sponsor. The Burlington company has set up an “8/28 Fund” with 100 percent of all donations going to Bailey’s VT Irene Flood Relief Fund.
Here’s a list of resources to help volunteers and victims.
To send a donation to the Vermont Foodbank, visit http://www.vtfoodbank.org/ or text FOODBANK to 52000 or call 800-585-2265. The food bank prefers cash over food donations because it can purchase much more food per dollar than people can shopping at the grocery store.
To help Mad River Valley farmers, contact the Mad River Valley Community Fund online at http://mrvcommunityfund.org/ or by calling 802-496-3638.
The Vermont and New Hampshire Red Cross is online at http://www.redcrossvtnhuv.org or by calling 802-660-9130. As always, blood donations are welcome.
The #VTResponse blog can be found here: https://vtresponse.wordpress.com/ To follow the #VTResponse Twitter feed visit http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23vtresponse
Rutland, Vermont Area Flood and Transportation Info Facebook page:
VT Irene Flood Relief Fund Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/VT-Irene-Flood-Relief-Fund/22585232079997/
As always, call 2-1-1 for information about what to do if you’re flooded out of your home or have questions. Visit http://www.vermont211.org/ or Vermont Emergency Management at http://vem.vermont.gov/
For news updates, follow @TimesArgus on Twitter or visit the Vermont Today blog at http://www.rutlandherald.typepad.com/vermonttoday/
Staff writer Daniel Staples contributed to this report.