Irene a test to Vermont's 19th-century charms

Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:18pm EDT
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By Scott Malone

WOODSTOCK, Vermont (Reuters) - The town of Woodstock, Vermont, boasts all the 19th century charm that draws tourist to New England: white picket fences, steepled country churches and a leafy town square.

But two days after Hurricane Irene dumped heavy rains on the inland state, flooding many low-lying towns and killing at least three people, Woodstock had some other 19th-century qualities that tourists do not prize: no running water or electricity.

"I couldn't believe it when they started directing people to the port-a-potties on the town green. That's sacrosanct, you usually can't do anything there without a permit," said Hasse Halley, a 70-year-old teacher who lives in the town.

Lack of basic services was just one of the many worries facing residents of the mountainous, rural New England state. Another concern was the storm's heavy toll on Vermont's valley roads, some 260 of which were damaged or washed away entirely in the storm, making travel a treacherous and time-consuming affair.

Thirteen towns were entirely cut off as a result of road damage, said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for the Vermont Division of Emergency Management. Five hundred state workers had been deployed to begin clearing and repairing the damage.

The state's death toll is expected to rise to four as one person washed away in Sunday's flood water is still missing, officials said.

All rivers in the state with the exception of Otter Creek in Rutland had receded below flood stage by Tuesday, according to Michael Muccilli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington.

Vermont is the northeastern U.S. state worst hit by the storm, which killed at least 38 people in 11 states.   Continued...