by Francesca Kitch
GREENSBORO — Vermont has felt the effects of climate change in the past week as a series of severe storms have hit. Roadways fractured, whirlpools and rivers appeared in the middle of roads, and asphalt crumbled; the damage last week exceeds the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and the Halloween storm of 2019.
With flooding of homes, downed power lines, and impassable roads, leaders at different levels of government have worked together to ensure the safety of residents and efficient repair of the roads.
Greensboro Fire Chief Dave Brochu has worked with Hardwick Rescue and the Craftsbury Fire Department to ensure emergency service coverage in areas his department cannot reach.
“The storm didn’t know any boundaries,” noted Greensboro Town Treasurer and Zoning Administrator, Brett Stanciu. She added that “the important point here to convey here is we are not left on our own: the state is our partner.”
The Vermont Agency of Transportation representative working with the town, Eric Pope, was called in to evaluate the bigger issues the town was having as a result of the flooding. Greensboro’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) application is processed through his office, and FEMA representatives plan to be on the ground Tuesday, July 18, to assess the damage and decide if it qualifies Greensboro for federal aid.
Town leaders and community members have been active in coming up with solutions. Chair of the select board, Peter Romans, was instrumental in coordinating communication between town departments and the implementation of emergency action plans. While Town Clerk Kim Greaves acts as the “traffic director” of communications, Romans has been acting as the ground crew, visiting flood sites. “He stepped right in and has been overseeing essentially the triage of what the next steps are for the town, overseeing the road crew, hiring on additional contractors and road crew help. He’s also done work on the roads himself,” added Stanciu, who was fielding questions on Romans’ behalf because he was hard at work.
Chief Brochu was on the phone with Greaves Monday night, assessing the roads and talking through plans for the safety of residents and recovery from the severe damage. Greaves was available all night to answer calls if any residents found themselves stranded, but luckily did not have to pick up the phone once. “We were very fortunate we didn’t have to make any rescues. A lot of people stayed home,” remarked Brochu.
On Tuesday morning, it seemed as though whole neighborhoods were out on the streets. Although most residents remained unaffected or only lost power for a few hours, some remained off the grid for a full day after the storm. Neighbors with springs let those without into their homes to access drinking water, and others drove to tell the less fortunate about free WiFi networks they’d set up for them to use if needed.
Road damage was cataloged all over town, with severe washouts on main roads such as the Town Highway (Craftsbury Road). Road crews are working hard to get driveways and roads back with help from J.P. Sicard, the company the town has contracted to help with the work.
Resident volunteers have also been instrumental in getting everything running again, from local contractors supplying dump trucks and backhoes, to “people jumping right in to drive trucks and haul gravel,” Greaves noted. Other residents have baked pies and cookies for the road crew and stopped by to give thanks for what these workers have been doing, gestures that have been greatly appreciated by the town. “I’ve never seen anything this devastating as far as a washout, so the fact that this is coming together is incredible,” Greaves added.
This marks a time when more intense storms are beginning to hit Vermont; annual average precipitation has increased nearly six inches, and days with heavy precipitation have increased by 2.4 days since the 1960s.
These networks of community bakers and selectmen-turned-road-workers are only becoming more important, something Greensboro clearly understands.
Residents are encouraged to visit the town website for more information, including updates on the status of roads and information on how to reach out for help. The website’s road conditions report continues to be updated by residents Rick and Dawn Morrille.