On August 9, 2023

‘It was life-changing’

 

Rutland family, evacuated Friday, reflects

By Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger

The water on Clover Street rose to the roof of Billy and Danielle Quintana’s car and rushed into their basement, last Friday, Aug. 7. 

“It was life-changing,” Billy said, sitting on his porch next to his wife Monday morning. Inside their rental home, where they live with their four kids, cardboard mush floated in the water that remained in their basement. The house was still without power so Billy used his phone’s flashlight to survey the damage.

Rutland was slammed with more than 3.5 inches of rain on Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Burlington. Streets flooded throughout the city, including Route 7. But Clover Street — a short, sloped block perpendicular Route 7 — was the center of residential flooding and evacuations.

Michael Talbott, president of Rutland’s Board of Aldermen, said it was unclear why exactly certain parts of the city had flooded. A brook on Stratton Road had jumped its banks, he said, which likely contributed to road damage near Olivia’s Market. Elsewhere, “storm drains weren’t draining,” he said. 

(Talbott is serving as acting mayor while Mayor Michael Doenges is out of town.)

On Clover Street about 20 residents were evacuated on Friday, according to state officials. And one home had been red-tagged, meaning it was deemed uninhabitable, Talbott said. 

“A few were yellow-carded,” meaning they needed clearance from an electrician and fire marshal, according to Talbott. In addition to fuel spills, “water had been up over electrical panels,” he explained.

The Quintanas’ home was among those yellow-carded. The family — seven in all on Friday — evacuated by raft as flood waters rose to their porch.

“My kids weren’t happy. I thought they were going to cry,” Billy said of the evacuation. “It was an adventure.”

The family received a voucher to stay at the Cortina Inn until Monday. But at the inn, one of their kids’ skin broke out, Danielle said. A combination of loud residents and a police presence added to the day’s stress, so the family returned to their damaged home.

“We’re camping inside,” Danielle said.

The couple said their landlord had worked tirelessly to help deal with repairs and had managed to schedule an electrician for later on Monday. The landlord had also bought them four pizzas over the weekend.

Billy and Danielle don’t take those little things for granted. Before moving to Rutland two years ago, they’d previously experienced homelessness. But life had started to turn around in Vermont. Danielle recently finished her clinicals and hoped to start working soon at Rutland Regional Medical Center. They had stable, comfortable housing.

Still, given their rocky finances, life isn’t easy. The flood, Billy said, made him feel “powerless.” His kids were confused about their future. It wasn’t good. 

“Everything we have, we treasure. We live from hand to mouth,” Billy explained. “I’m trying to keep every penny, every dollar, to make things more comfortable for my kids.”

Even as more rain fell on Clover Street, Billy stared at his totaled sedan, naming silver linings: Just that morning, a neighbor gave his kids a ride to daycare, asking nothing in return. Maybe the flood was the push he needed to finally buy a minivan that could fit his children, he thought out loud.

Just then, a man came walking gingerly up Clover Street, trying to stay dry in a clear plastic poncho. The other week, Billy had met that man when he walked up the road asking for cigarettes. “I saw he had slippers on in the rain,” Billy recalled, so he had grabbed a pair of shoes for the man along with a smoke.

As he approached on Monday, Billy could see the shoes didn’t fit quite right. So he ran inside, and came back with a pair of black winter boots — the type that lace up calf-high, meant to keep a person dry and warm through the winter. 

“Try these,” Billy said, handing them to the man. The man tied them, jumped up and down. They fit much better.

“You want these back?” the man asked, gesturing to the first pair of shoes. Billy shook his head no.

“Pass ‘em on to someone else,” he said.

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