The Mountain Times

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Ludlow Begins Recovery from Irene

It was a savage blow to Ludlow but the people of Ludlow showed the strength to strike back at the flood created by Irene by just deciding that they could overcome the devastation Irene leveled at them.

While the adage "that you can't get there from here" may have been true for the first several days after Irene slammed into the area, the town demonstrated that it was only an adage.  With quick responses from both the public and private sectors, washed out main roads were quickly refilled to permit traffic.  Not every washout has been corrected but the most important ones, including some key bridge fixes, have been made safe to traffic.  Even the horrific washout at the corner of Andover (Rte 100) and Main Street was filled by week's end.

The businesses in the Shaws mall, off Main Street, key to the food, medical, and banking needs of the town, were severely flooded.  But, exactly one week following the storm, Shaws, itself, has demonstrated that it intends to restore business.  They erected a tent this past Saturday with appropriate shelving and restocked it that same day.  By 7 AM on the following day, they were open for business, supplying area residents with all the basic food needs. 

At the same time, the Rite-Aid drug store announced that it, too, would be reopening in the mall in the following week so that the medical needs of the community could be served.

Peoples United Bank never missed a step.  Even as workers were busy stripping wall boards from the inside of the bank, the tellers were still helping people with their banking needs.  Peoples intends to bring in a temporary trailer to house the bank while renovation work is going on in the corner banking facility at the mall.

Further down Main Street, businesses on the river side of Main Street, those hardest hit by the flooding, were in the process of cleaning up the mud and debris from Irene.  Some even managed to reopen.  Unfortunately, Sams Restaurant, further down Main Street, suffered very severe damage and will be closed for a while.  The same appears to true for Panarello's.  Subway, which was hit by the flood, was closed for several days but managed to reopen for the weekend.

The Ludlow Transfer Station changed its hours and remained open every day to help residents and businesses get rid of destroyed items.  The station dropped cancelled all fees for dumping in an effort to help everyone.

One of the fascinating aspects of the response to Irene was how everyone used the Internet, particularly FaceBook and local blogs, to keep everyone informed of road status, store openings, help needed and offered, and answering questions from both local folks and second home owners wondering about the conditions of their properties.  In particular, the FaceBook group called "Rebuild Okemo Valley" was heavily used.

During the week Ludlow had visits from the Governor, US Senator and Congressman, lots of help from the National Guard, the Salvation Army, and just a lot of people willing to help.

Perhaps the best way to exhibit this spirit was offered by DJ's Restaurant, a local favorite dining spot.  For two successive nights, DJ's opened its door to everyone for free dinners.  At a time when many lacked the ability to prepare a meal, this was a tremendously helpful and charitable effort on DJ's part.  Even the waiters and waitresses turned over all their tips to Black River Good Neighbors (BRGN) to aid to a voluntary fund raising effort.

Not everyone has recovered from Irene.  The folks living on Meadow Street that borders the Black River have endured cellar and first floor flooding of the first magnitude.  People with homes in the lake areas suffered horrendous damage, some amounting to total losses.  In the long term, probably the biggest expense to Ludlow will be repairing the sewage processing plant that saw all of its electronic controls wiped out.  Currently, they have restored the chlorination function at the plant.

Over in Cavendish, while Proctorsville Village suffered some damage, especially in the Depot Street area, it was Cavendish Village that saw the greatest damage.  Currently, Cavendish is restoring public water but saw parts of Rte 131 washed out so that it had no contact with its neighbor, Weathersfield.

Plymouth has just had partially traffic into it restored.

Black River Good Neighbors has become the official site for fund raising to support renovation and recovery efforts by area residents and property owners.  Donations may be made via its web site, www.brgn.org, via mail to BRGN, 37 B Main Street, Ludlow, VT  05149, or by simply coming into BRGN.

LPCTV has also been named the official archivist for all photos and videos related to Irene in the area.  If you have photos and/or videos of Irene that you wish to share for historical uses, please send them to LPCTV, c/o 2011 Flood Archives, 43 Main Street, Ludlow, VT 05149.

Throughout all of these disasters, area folks still retained an air of sanity and humor, as difficult as it was sometimes to find anything to smile about.  The Cavendish Players continued with their latest play, updated for the recent Irene impact, this past Saturday.  FOLA (Friends of Ludlow Auditorium) continued showing its "1st Thursday"  movie, "Chariots of Fire", and the Ludlow 250 planning committee still met to finalize plans for the 250th birthday bash in Ludlow on September 16 and 17.   The road to full recovery from Irene will long, tedious, and expensive; but, based on the first week's experience, it will be achieved.

All things considered, Irene had the unintended consequence of demonstrating just how close and determined the people of the area were - and are - in keeping their communities together and ensuring that everyone in them receives whatever help they may need to restored their property and lives back to normal.

As a personal note, I have lived in a wide variety of places all over this globe but I have never experienced the communal strength and determination that I have seen in the response to this disaster.  It's a privilege to live in Ludlow.

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