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My name is Asah Rowles. I am a native Vermonter, business owner, mother and the chair of the Mad River Long Term Recovery Group. Our recovery group is here for the months and years to come to help our neighbors, our friends and our families.
Tropical Storm Irene brought personal loss and public damage unlike anything experienced here in the Mad River Valley in more than a generation. Heavy rains and flash flooding occurred during the state’s worst natural disaster since the epic flood of 1927.
The incredible damage to houses, property, land and our natural environment is still difficult to comprehend. The impact of this single storm has already caused a downward spiral of our local economy. If we don’t continue to come together and help rebuild and connect the dots of recovery this downward spiral could continue for years to come.
With people and businesses displaced for the last eight months, the impact of the initial flooding is now beginning to have secondary consequences. Just this week a local family has finally come to the realization that after months of work to salvage their home, there is actually no hope or value in rebuilding their house. Their retired 72-year-old neighbor up the street has already spent his entire life savings on getting his home livable and now needs to address his ongoing needs.
This week hundreds of Vermont college students will return to their hometowns hoping to find jobs in the tourism industry, but many of the restaurants and other businesses that would have employed them are gone or not yet open.
Our fight to rebuild our state is far from over. But we are making progress.
Volunteers have cleaned up most of the round bale plastic wrapping along the Mad River. Volunteers have completed the reconstruction of about a dozen homes in The Valley and these families have now moved back in. Volunteers have been instrumental in helping three new businesses open on Bridge Street in Waitsfield Village, and there are more to come over the summer.
Tropical Storm Irene may have caused the greatest damage in the history of Vermont, but it also produced the greatest volunteer response in our state’s history. One by one and step by step, together we are rebuilding the Mad River Valley. Looking to our past for inspiration, we build a future of resiliency.
It’s a matter of acting now to help repair the damage that this storm has created and to teach our children how we can be a pivotal part of protecting our planet. This is what we must teach the children of the Mad River Valley. They will need these tools in every corner of the earth that their lives take them.
Asah Rowles lives in Granville.