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Flood just latest disaster for Vt.

BY DARYL LANG | VERMONT | July 15, 1998

After succumbing to flood waters in late June, communities in rural Vermont

are pulling together to clean up and rebuild.

Throughout the state, 146 homes were damaged in the flood, including 21

that were destroyed, according to the American Red Cross. Some of the most

severe damage occurred in the Mad River valley, but damage was so

widespread that 10 of Vermont's 14 counties were declared federal disaster

areas.

Larry Dugan, a Church World Service disaster resources consultant, said

identifying funding for repairs was the next important step for many

residents.

It will probably be months before communities have settled back to normal

and roads are repaired, Dugan said. And other needs might show up in the

future, such as getting damaged roads in good condition for local business

during the winter ski season.

The floods were yet one more disaster for Vermont, which has seen several

disaster declarations in the past year. Many towns were crippled by a

severe ice storm last winter, and northern areas of the state suffered

serious flooding in July 1997.

In Milton, some residents were still cleaning up from the ice storm damage

when the flood hit, said Andrea Zentz Seal, executive director of Green

Mountain Volunteers, a non-profit group that coordinates disaster response

volunteers for Vermont.

But in some cases, the earlier disasters helped prepare people for this

round of floods.

Last year, so much food was donated to help flood survivors in Montgomery

that it couldn't all be distributed, and lots of it was wasted, Seal said.

To avoid the same problem this year, Green Mountain Volunteers issued a

bulletin discouraging food donations, saying money was the greatest

immediate need.

In addition, many towns are preparing emergency plans for handling future

disasters. "I think everybody learns from every disaster," Seal added.

Some interfaith groups formed to deal with earlier disasters have shifted

gears to address the current flooding problems, Dugan said.

Local faith groups are distributing information to their communities so

people with damaged property know how to apply for federal loans and

grants, Dugan said, adding that some don't consider applying for aid.

"There are going to be some people who say 'well, I can take care of

myself,'" Dugan added, noting that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management

Agency) has already given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to people

who requested it.

Community support helped many small towns get through the toughest parts of

the flood.

In Lincoln, many residents first heard news of the flooding from resident

Richard Jimmo, who drove through town late at night, blaring the horn on

his truck and pounding on doors. Local authorities arrived shortly after to

help people evacuate.

Once the water subsided and residents could return to their homes, the

community spent the weekend cleaning up flooded areas like the town hall

and the public library.

"Before anyone got to us, we were already at it," said Pastor David Wood of

the United Church of Lincoln. Wood described how dozens of people helped

list destroyed library books and carry the salvagable ones to the church

for storage.

Just west of Lincoln, residents of Bristol also had to quickly abandon

their homes.

One of the major challenges for local residents is finding alternate routes

around destroyed roads, said Laurie Kroll at the First Baptist Church of

Bristol. "To see a place that we have driven on for many years just

disappear has been very very odd," Kroll said.

Posted July 15, 1998


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