When I first started hearing reports about Hurricane Irene, I have to say I was a little Gulf Coast Smug about it. The pictures of Manhattanites queuing up at Whole Foods for last-minute necessities, then the ones of them out walking in the actual storm, did cause my Smugometer to go up a bit. Where were the piles of broken glass in the streets from the skyscrapers, where was all the damage? As it turns out, I was looking in exactly the wrong place. As it turns out, one of the places I needed to look was the most unlikely I could have thought: the place where I was raised.
This probably isn't surprising to y'all who have seen what Irene did to southern and central Vermont, but Irene whacked the heck out a number of small towns near and dear to my heart, hidden away in the Adirondack Park. These are small towns full of people who have seen more than their fair share of blizzards, ice storms, economic hard times, and the like - and who have even seen seasonal flooding from their small and swift rivers. But they have never seen flooding like that which Irene brought with her. Not ever - not on this scale. The damage is heart-breaking. Homes were thrown off their foundations, blacktop peeled off the surface of the roads, three fire stations were destroyed, and something like 70 bridges were wiped out or damaged. People whose homes had never flooded had 4'-6' of water in their homes (yes, that's feet, not inches). Water raced down the main street of the town my father grew up in, and it poured through the windows of the wooden covered bridge I crossed at least two times a day for the first 15 years of my life. It was, to say the least, a catastrophic event.
If you want to see pictures, learn the news, find out how you can help, there are some links to check out below. A number of people have come into the area to help, and of course the residents themselves have been taking care of each other very well, as they always do. I have always worn the 1,500 miles of distance between me and my childhood home very lightly; many, many times, I needed those miles. But for the past few days those miles have been far too many; I am too far away to be of any help, and I am finding out that that hurts more than I ever would have expected.
God bless all y'all back home. I'm proud to be from the place y'all care about and care for so deeply and so well. You are all in my prayers.
The beautiful Wells Library in Upper Jay flooded and lost all but 5 of its children's books. Here is how you can help.
Some news and pictures at this blog.
Lots of really good coverage from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
And best of all, how you can help, from North Country Public Radio.
UPDATED WITH A FEW MORE LINKS:
Reuters picks up the story, and
The local Fox affiliate posts a story.