Putting a Face to Irene’s Damage
Saturday was a gorgeous, sunny day in Vermont. I was the record keeper at the 4-H dairy show at the Champlain Valley Fair. The show’s judge was David Kennett of Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester. Dave did a wonderful job with the 4-Hers, giving lots of pointers on fitting and showing. I’ve known David since he was a 4-Her showing dairy animals and competing against my boys. He and his family milk about 100 Holsteins on their scenic valley farm. Dave’s parents, Bob and Beth were pioneers in agri-tourism, opening their home as an inn in 1984. Beth is a wonderful cook, serving both dinner and breakfast to their guests. Guests are encouraged to roam the farm, join in milking, feed the calves, collect eggs and to fully experience farm life. These are not simply entertainment experiences, they are educational experiences. Beth has been a true leader in promoting agri-tourism locally, nationally and in Canada.
Saturday, I kept looking at the beautiful sunny sky, knowing Hurricane Irene was on her way. It was such an odd feeling; here is this perfect Vermont day, it seemed unbelievable we were in the path of a hurricane that was mere hours away.
It is heartbreaking to see the damage that Hurricane Irene has caused. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been had she not lost strength before reaching Vermont. The ripped out bridges and roads from the heavy rains and flooding left 13 towns without access. Last night that number was down to 12. Especially hard hit was the Rochester area. Liberty Hill Farm’s road was taken out by the White River, as were the bridges and roads into and out of town. The river also washed away the town’s electric substation. Power has been out since 3PM Sunday. It may be weeks before the power is restored.
I have not spoken to the Kennetts, cell phone coverage is very spotty in the area. I have spoken to their milk coop representative; I know physically the whole family is fine. I expect the crops on that once lush river bottomland are gone. Their livelihoods are halted; most farms have generators, I hope the Kennetts do so they can continue to feed and milk the cows. There is no way to get the milk off the farm, so it will need to be dumped, but the cows must be fed and milked to keep them healthy. This is another huge economic challenge for the Kennetts and many other Vermont dairies to overcome.
FEMA trucks started arriving yesterday, the VT National Guard is helping, as well as innumerable volunteers. The University of Vermont Extension website has a listing of many hurricane recovery resources to access.
We Vermonters are a hardy bunch, but this is the worst flooding in nearly 100 years. There was no way to prepare for or prevent the devastation. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.