Irene Leaves Ski Towns and Academies Reeling
But communities and students rally to save the season ahead BY HANK McKEE
DUXBURY, Vt. — Freedom and Unity. That’s the Vermont state motto.
And in the wake of a disaster the state’s people are living up to it.
Since Hurricane Irene paid a soggy visit on August 28, neighbors have
been helping neighbors and things are getting put right again. There’s
a ways to go yet, but the public relations arms of New England’s Irene-touched regions have issued the “all clear.” Tourism is important in Eastern ski country and the high season starts with fall foliage a little less than
a month away.
The destruction has been well documented by social networking on the
Internet. Understand that much of Vermont classifies as temperate rain
forest. It normally has water in abundance and is alpine in nature. Its
streams, creeks and rivers routinely handle large amounts of rainfall. Had
done so, in fact, all summer long.
Irene hit land around New York City and came to Vermont to die, and
though she eventually spun off the coast of Maine into the northern Atlantic, she dropped her power — and water — and stalled over this already
saturated landscape. It was a lot of water. Some rain gauges said as little
as six inches, others more than 13. However much fell, those already
swollen streams, creeks and rivers jumped their well-worn banks. Towns
situated where water had, in the 1800s, been the main power supply got
hit and hit hard by flooding. More than 30 bridges, the lifelines to some of
these towns, were damaged and in some cases swept away. When the
waters receded and the sun came up on August 29, officials counted 13
communities in Vermont completely cut off from the outside world.
The bulk of Vermont, indeed most of Eastern ski country, fared much
better than these riverside towns. Aside from a chunk of a Killington base
lodge that lost its foundation and collapsed, the ski areas remain largely
Ski academies, normally situated closer to the mountains than the valley
floors, likewise suffered remarkably little damage.
The immediate problem was transportation. More than 200 roads were
closed by Irene. Route 4, the primary east-west route serving Killington,
Killington Mountain School students help clean up the basement of the school’s Grange Hall, which saw several inches of standing water after Irene.