9.03.2011

Irene, day 6 ... Moretown

MORETOWN - By itself, the mud can come in waves of five feet. It looks like the riverbed of the Snake River, or the Gunnison, but it's right in people's front yards. The river has abandoned it, though, and as it dries it's just full of riverstones and specks of e coli and who-knows-what-else (which is why facemasks have become standard gear for all the work crews, all the time).

Down with the chainsaw crews, the mud isn't just an obstacle, it's also a wicked dulling agent. It's not lack of gas, chainsaws or operators that slows things down, it's the thin layer of river mud that dulls the blades within minutes. On the thick logs and the thin ones, the dried mud takes a blade from sharp to almost useless long before the muscles wear out.

The house work itself has become pretty straightforward. Because in the race against mildew, everything that was below waterline must be removed, the houses all have a similar look. All the drywall lower than four feet has been removed, including all the insulation that was behind it -- a nasty blend of dusty dry and wet oatmeal that has to be scraped out by hand before it gets shoveled into buckets and wheelbarrows.

You're also seeing floorboards ripped up, and basement walls too. Gotta get that mud and mildew out of there, whatever it takes.

The damage in Moretown hit the main street residential district very hard. Numerous homes were hammered, cars were washed away, and some dramatic stories have emerged. Some friends were hit by a flash flood while driving and had to climb through their sun roof to escape. Others tales of barefoot evacuation included leaving homes for the nearby emergency shelter (ie, the Moretown School), but then the shelter itself was cutoff and evacuated with the vague goal of "just go to higher ground." Good thing for that mountain bike trail behind the school.

Moretown volunteer organization was excellent today. Which is a theme for the week. As eager and good natured and seemingly untiring as volunteers have been, it's the structure of the relief effort that has makes all the difference. All done by friends and neighbors, pitching in to help out.

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