Hurricane Sandy has been an unwelcome reminder for many Vermonters who suffered during Tropical Storm Irene. Those affected by Irene spent this weekend getting ready for another dangerous storm – even as they continued to recover from the previous one.
More than a year after Irene, residents of the Weston Mobile Home Park in Berlin are still getting their lives back to normal. By now, most of their homes have been refurbished inside.
"Every time I look out here it makes me feel bad," says Sandy Gaffney, running her hand through her thinning, bright red hair as she looks out over her modest backyard.
There’s silt and gravel, a leak in her roof. There’s her shed that still needs to be finished, her neighbor’s gutted out trailer, which still has no skirting. It all reminds her of Irene.
"You can’t get past it, yet. Even the way it is now it looks better than it did right after the flood," Gaffney explains. "But it just always brings it back. And now we’re getting another one."
Another one, although state officials say Sandy is unlikely to produce Irene’s devastating flooding. At the same time, they’re urging residents to be prepared for the worst.
Fourteen months after Irene tore through Vermont, driving rivers over their banks and exacting a painful price from thousands of Vermonters, many residents who are still waiting for FEMA insurance checks say they’re frustrated but they’re ready – ready to evacuate if necessary, ready to help each other, ready to do things differently this time.
Gaffney goes over her evacuation plan as she sits at her kitchen table, which is covered with Irene-related paperwork. She says she’ll elevate her belongings and go to her sister’s house in Montpelier, where she’ll wait out the storm that ironically shares her name.
Gaffney is approaching this storm with a certain sense of fatalism.
"I’ve got so much emotion attached to the Irene flood that I don’t have any left over for this," she says, choking up. "I’m just at the point where I’m nervous and I’ve made my plans but whatever happens, happens and there’s nothing I can do about it."
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Across town, Chris Covey directs his tree-removal crew. He says Irene was good for business. "Irene was busy," he says. "This storm that’s coming in, who knows?"
Covey’s crew is still cleaning up the remnants from Irene. His business has been so busy that he was able to buy this new, massive $100,000 crane. He maneuvers it to take down an American Elm: "Well there she goes! Beautiful. Perfect."
Utility crews across the state staged their emergency response early – ordering extra poles and cables, double checking generators.
Pam Jones is the central office supervisor with FairPoint Communications in Vermont. She says, in light of Irene, the utility has made extraordinary precautions ahead of Sandy.
"The prediction, I believe, for Irene was not as intense as it turned out to be, so we do not take it lightly," Jones says. "The issues that we had in Rochester where we lost entire offices – we’ve actually bought some off-road vehicles that will allow us to get to places in the event that roads are washed out."
Rochester and 12 other towns were cut from the rest of the state in Irene’s wake. Jones says as long as cables don’t come down, the utility’s generators should keep communication humming along.
As Vermont and other New England states brace for Sandy, state officials say the storm is unlikely to produce Irene’s devastating flooding. But at the same time, they’re urging residents to be prepared for the worst.
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