U.S. pays to repave

  The U.S. Department of Transportation has released $15 million in emergency funds to Vermont in order to repair roads and bridges damaged or destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) praised Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for his expedience in making funds available to the devastated areas of Vermont. “LaHood has once again demonstrated a strong understanding of the magnitude of the disaster that has struck Vermont and the need for timely federal help,” Leahy said in a statement. “I appreciate that very much.” The grant will in part replenish Vermont’s emergency fund that was tapped for emergency road repairs, including the reconnection of 13 towns whose access roads were totally destroyed by Irene. Junior Georgia Dennis-DeVries experienced firsthand the havoc that Irene wreaked on the state. Her hometown of South Strafford, Vt. was one of the 13 towns whose access roads were completely destroyed by the storm. Dennis-DeVries’ trip home a few days after the storm, which usually only takes about an hour, took her over three hours because she had to meander through a network of largely unchartered and unpaved back roads. Dennis-DeVries recalled helping one friend attempt to clear nearly two feet of silt that the rerouted river had deposited in her barn and yard. “We had no idea where to even start,” she said. “There was silt everywhere and we eventually realized that heavy machinery was needed.” The town of less than 500 was unreachable by road after the storm, Dennis-DeVries said. The resulting isolation prompted the National Guard to lend assistance by delivering food and water via helicopter. Dennis-DeVries said that her hometown has nearly recovered, but noted that farmers in the area have suffered irreparable damages. Sophomore Carson Casey said that Irene hit the areas surrounding her hometown of Bennington hard. Her family said that it took just under two weeks for the flooding to fully subside, at which point the community was charged with clearing massive amounts of debris from roadways to allow construction crews to begin their repair. “It was really the huge community effort that allowed everything to be rebuilt quickly,” she said. Casey said her sister’s high school delayed the start of classes for more than a week because the storm incapacitated much of the area. Although Casey did not revisit the area until a few weeks ago, she maintained contact with her family throughout the ordeal, which was difficult at first because they were without power for almost a week. Casey said that many of the roads in her area are still in need of repair, and said she hopes that the grant will help fix them. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the federal grant will help the Vermont community rebound from the destruction brought about by Irene. “Vermonters are working hard to recover from Tropical Storm Irene and this will help,” Welch said. “I’m thankful to Secretary LaHood for his timely and continued attention to the needs of Vermonters.”