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Vermont Air National Guard pilot Chad Sample unloads water and meal packs at Green Mountain National Forest Ranger Station in Rochester, Vt., yesterday. Rochester was cut off by flood damage until yesterday afternoon. (Valley News — James M. Patterson)
Vt. Storm Relief Finds a Way
By Alex Hanson
Valley News Staff Writer
Bethel — It’s fair to say that people who drive Jeeps and four-wheelers through the woods feel vindicated.
Tim “TJ” Shonio drove to Bethel from Rochester yesterday over Mt. Hunger in his jacked-up Jeep Cherokee. His girlfriend, Brandi Smith, has a house in East Randolph that they hadn’t seen since Tropical Storm Irene rolled through on Sunday, and they also used the trip to pick up some food.
“If it wasn’t for all of us that do jeeping, none of these roads would be open,” Shonio said.
Shonio was part of a second flood yesterday, a wave of people rolling out of the isolated hills in Bethel, Stockbridge and Rochester in search of gas, food, fellowship and other necessities. They arrived in downtown Bethel on ATVs, in Jeeps, on bicycles and on foot.
Vermont State Police, with the help of members of the Vermont Jeep Association, yesterday morning evacuated two men from Rochester who needed dialysis, then headed back to evacuate two people from Stockbridge with medical needs, said Trooper Chris Blais, a member of the Jeep club.
“We have these lovely volunteers here to help us facilitate this,” Blais said.
It took a while for the state police to figure out how to put the Jeep club members to use. There were nine Jeeps in the parking lot at the Royalton state police barracks by noon yesterday. After waiting for direction until 1:30 or so, a group of five left on their own to open up overland routes to Rochester. The last pair didn’t leave until 5 p.m., on a mission to ferry 15 cans of gas to town generators in Stockbridge and Rochester.
“Everybody’s looking for something to do,” said Brian Carpenter, president of the Jeep association and a Richmond, Vt., resident.
Today might have been the last day off-road vehicles would provide the only access to towns cut off by flooding. A road link was established to Rochester through Warren late yesterday.
But so far, most of the materials heading back to isolated, flood-stricken communities were hauled there by residents.
Brian Booth towed a trailer behind his four-wheeler to bring gas back to his home on Bethel’s Brink Hill. His generator powers a dental lab that he runs from his home.
“Most of my customers are in Rutland,” Booth said. “I don’t know if I’m going to have any business.”
Bethel teemed with activity yesterday as ATVs drove up and down Main Street, a fleet of dump trucks hauled stone to washed-out roads and residents from the hills who hadn’t been able to get to town greeted one another.
“It’s surreal,” Booth said. “It’s like some post-apocalyptic nightmare that you see in the movies.”
Penny Griffin and her son Brian Griffin rode their four-wheelers into Bethel yesterday to pick up some supplies.
Other than walking, the four-wheelers were the only way they were going to get down Lilliesville Brook Road from the Lympus section of Bethel. The ATVs are useful, but they’re no substitute for a paved road.
“My daughter-in-law’s due to have a baby in three to four weeks,” Penny Griffin said. “I’m a little nervous about that. She can’t ride a four-wheeler. That’s a no-no.”
Jamie and Lisa Floyd made the first outside contact with the remote neighborhood of Lympus Four Corner
s. They walked up with backpacks of fresh water.
“We wanted to make contact and let them know they were not forgotten,” said Lisa Floyd, whose parents, John and Dorothy Manning, live in Lympus Four Corners. One of their goals was to bring her parents back down into town, but “they refused to leave,” Floyd said.
“Happily,” Jamie Floyd said, “they don’t need anything.” The dozen or so families have banded together, setting up a generator at the home of a diabetic woman who needs to keep her insulin refrigerated, and cooking at homes that have gas stoves. Plans were afoot to hold a block party last night to cook any remaining perishable foods.
In addition to the water, the Floyds carried news from the outside world, an account of the flooding and photos on their cell phones. “They were really hungry for news of the flood,” Jamie Floyd said.
A group of Stockbridge residents managed to traverse Mt. Hunger on a steep woods road with a four-wheel-drive pickup towing a trailer. They had loaded up with a couple of generators, several cans of gas and chests full of ice.
Jim Munyon, a Stockbridge firefighter, said he planned to take generators to homes in his neighborhood so people could run their refrigerators and freezers cold.
“We’re grouping together pretty well right now,” Munyon said, adding “I’m just doing what I can do.”
Stockbridge set up a shelter Sunday night at the Gaysville Community Church and 18 people stayed overnight. People have either gone back home or to stay with friends.
Route 107, the main road to Stockbridge, is still closed past the Bethel line, but Stan Stawicki and Steven Lowinski braved it on bicycles yesterday to fetch groceries from Bethel. Lowinski’s family came up from Massachusetts because they thought Vermont would be safer during Sunday’s storm. Now they’re marooned, unable to get their cars onto the road.
“We made a stupid move,” Stawicki said. “We didn’t bring one car out.”
The bike ride was essential, he said. Lowinski’s girlfriend turned 22 yesterday, “so we had to get an ice cream cake.” ”
Just to give/share credit where its due on what was a joint Club effort coordinated within hours, those 5 (actually it was 6) are part of our Club (Green Mountain Crawlers), not VJA. That particular group has been out every day & night since Saturday both helping preparing and with recovery, and have been on the news unnamed several times for what they have done there:
- created a new exit/entrance on the I89 – including bringing in a member owned tractor to ensure equal passage for all vehicles
- rescued a motorist caught in a flash flood
- able to clean existing trails to access 3 stranded communities (Rochester, Stockbridge, & Pittsfield) and were able to bring in supplies and provide people transport.
- assisted the Bethel & South Royalton Fire Depts in their efforts.
They will continue to be out there until no longer needed, thanked or not, most of which are taking unpaid time away from work to help. Just want to give them some thanks as well, even if its not making the papers.
I’m definitely proud to be part of the wheeling community in this State. Both VJA & GMC, as well as several VASA members deserve all the recognition given & then some.
Matt, President, Green Mountain Crawlers
File Attachment: letter 2 state.pdf
The NorthEast Association of 4WD Clubs and its members formally recognized the water hole on Old Florida Road as an environmentally sensitive area. In keeping with our goals of minimizing our impacts on the environment, we instructed our members and advised all motorized users of Old Florida Road to – not cross the water hole. We understood this issue would be highly contested. read more…
Terms of Engagement from Nutter, McClennen, & Fish
File Attachment: Nutter_TOE.pdf
This is the client letter from Jason Makofsky Nutter, McClennen, & Fish
File Attachment: New_Client_NEA_Engagement_Ltr.pdf
File Attachment: STATE RESPONSE.pdf
By: Carl Merrick
Results of the NEA4WDC Meeting with the Town of Florida 03/08/04 By Carl Merrick Tim Wagner did an excellent presentation to the selectmen and town manager last night. They are supportive of the 3rd initiative proposed by the North East Association of 4WD Clubs to block access to the waterhole and use the existing ATV bypass. Tim will be contacting DCR for the next step. ****IMPORTANT NOTE: At this time we do not have access to this ATV by-pass. PLEASE turn around at some point and DO NOT go through the environmentally sensitive waterhole.**** read more…
By: Timothy M. Wagner
File Attachment: OldFloridaRoad-StatusReport.PDF
The NorthEast Association of 4WD Clubs and its members formally recognize the water hole on Old Florida Road as an environmentally sensitive area. read more…
By: Timothy M. Wagner
Well, Mother Nature has decided to make up for lost time this year. In recent years, by mid-April, we would have been out numerous times on trail rides and performing clean-ups, enjoying the springtime weather and watching nature spread her seasonal wings. This year? – Not so. read more…More...
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