Cleaning up after Irene

DONATE: The Mad River Community Fund

Turns out, a Shop Vac doesn't really do the trick.

Standing in a retail showroom ... probably as big as half a tennis court ... with an inch of slick and slippery river mud everywhere, the only thing you could really do was start shoveling the stuff into buckets. Sort of like trying to get that last spoonful of milk out of the bottom of your cereal bowl. The bucket would then go to a wheelbarrow, which would then get dumped on the far side of the street. That was the mud pile.

There were other piles, too: the electronics pile, the carpet pile, the furniture pile, the tree and branches pile. There were piles at the front of buildings, at the back of the buildings, on the decks, and in the road. And when the mega Dumpsters got there, the piles were moved in there, handful by wet handful.

That was yesterday. A day all about wetness. Volunteers were abundant, and organization was really quite strong. At the entrance to the Bridge Street area, a table was set up giving people ideas where to go ("People needed at: Flatbread, Ch. 44 ...etc".

Today, on the other hand, the cleanup battle is more about the (relatively) dry stuff. Peeling off drywall down to the studs, jerking out handfuls of wet fiberglass insulation, and racing against the clock to keep the mildew from setting. The mud is now caked-on dirt, like a low-grade cement jammed into every crevice.

There are still plenty of volunteers, but it's far far less than yesterday. And undoubtedly, tomorrow's roster of free laborers will be even smaller. By later this week, volunteers will have returned to their day jobs, and people will likely be on their own.

One of the houses we worked at yesterday had four feet of water in the downstairs kids' rooms. "Just get the pictures," said Susie Lowe to the guys who were handing out the mattresses, clothing and toys. "That's really all I care about."

Five noteworthy restaurants in the area were knocked on their asses by the storm. The Green Cup and Mint in Waitsfield are very likely a total loss. Warren's Pitcher Inn basement was severely flooded, and the iconic American Flatbread is a giant mess at the moment (though I have heard the eating area itself is generally OK). Up in Waterbury, the word is that the Alchemist and their brewing facility is completely destroyed.

Lower on the list from the homes and farms and businesses affected by the storm are the other things, like Couples Field in Waitsfield. The home of the local Little League and soccer fields, Couples Field is under three or four feet of river mud, the baseball backstops have been folded like an accordion, and the new dugouts from a few years ago are now far downstream as part of the Lake Champlain watershed.

And, of course, that's just the start of the list. Places like Moretown are completely cut off, with bridges to the north and south completely gone. Granville and Rochester are now islands as well, without power and groceries. I don't know what's up in Bristol, Lincoln, Richmond and Huntington, but I'm sure it's similar.

A local musicfest slated for October 8 has changed their theme from general fun-hogging to a benefit for local businesses. The upcoming ultimate tournament is doing the same. Many others are looking at community fundraising events, and the agency that's likely to be the grant giving agency is the Mad River Community Fund.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, all donations to the Community Fund are tax deductible. Much like the Conservation Alliance, they operate with almost zero overhead so the money can go right where it needs to go. They're good folks, and they take PayPal.

If you feel the urge to help out, this would be a great place to start.

DONATE: Mad River Community Fund

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