Irene’s lasting impact

 

 

Even though Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm when it hit Burlington Aug. 28, the University was well prepared and there was little damage.

 

UVM’s Emergency Operations Group, headed by co-chairs Bill Ballard and Annie Stevens, was in charge of managing UVM operations during the emergency.

 

“Our primary interest is protecting the people, second is protecting property,” Ballard, associate vice president for administrative and facilities services, said.

 

In preparation for Irene, the group developed plans on how to operate the University and sent their recommendations to the interim president and other administrative faculty, Ballard said.

 

The administration and Interim President Bramley chose to close the University for two days in anticipation of problems that the storm would cause on Sunday, according to Ballard.

 

“The University was closed on Monday in case commuting faculty had difficulty getting onto campus and for expected problems faced by off-campus students,” he said.

 

The storm was rated a level four emergency on campus, meaning that it impacts a sizable portion of the campus and may develop into a full disaster, according to the University’s Emergency Response and Recovery Basic Plan.

 

“It was a level four emergency mainly because we could manage it with resources within the University,” he said.

 

The extra police and ambulances on call during the storm wasn’t needed and the only damage done to campus was water infiltration in some of the older buildings, Ballard said.

 

“Cracks in the roofs were easily cleaned up, no trees fell down, and there were no

injuries,” he said.

 

Some students felt as though the CatAlert messages about the storm were a little excessive, but Ballard believed it was necessary given the circumstances.

 

“We would much rather be planning than reacting,” Ballard said. “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

 

Although Burlington was left relatively unharmed from Irene’s destruction, other parts of Vermont were not so lucky.

 

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed across southern and central Vermont, as well as the state’s road system, according to the Burlington Free Press.

 

Many Vermonters in the Killington area were cut off from the outside world due to the collapse of five main bridges, sophomore Melissa Werle said.

 

“They had to evacuate people by boat and even helicopter food in,” Werle said.

 

Junior Georgia Dennis-DeVries said that the majority of main roads were destroyed in her hometown of South Strafford.

 

“There was a lot of damage,” she said. “My mom called me, frantically talking to check if I was OK.”

 

Dennis-DeVries said she felt that many students in the UVM community are unaware of the full scope of the storm because Burlington was not as seriously affected.

 

“More students should check out Youtube videos showing the devastation and how scared people really are,” she said.

 

University Communications interviewed a number of professors in order to discover the lasting impacts Hurricane Irene will have on Vermont.

 

Extension agricultural economist Bob Parsons said he is concerned about the winds and flood damage to barns and equipment at local farms.

 

“We can recuperate from crop losses if we have a week of warm, dry weather, but farms that can’t get feed, fuel and milk to market [due to impassable roads] may be in trouble,” he said.

 

Associate professor of sociology Alice Fothergill said that disaster recovery is a long, difficult process and sees the storm affecting the people of Vermont for some time.

 

“People will help each other, we’ll see a lot of volunteerism, but we’ll see a lot of family stress and we’ll see a lot of farms and businesses go under,” she said.