Flooding and Family Memories

(This story does not appear in When the River Rose.)

When Irene struck Waterbury, my wife Cathy and I were driving home from Minerva, Wisconsin. We had just attended the 40th wedding anniversary of my brother, Sid, and his wife, Cheryl. We were in touch with family and friends by cell phone and were aware of the flooding at our home at 21 Elm Street, which sits at the end of Elm Street and looks down Randall Street. Our daughter, Karen, and her husband, Todd Pudvar, made two trips to the house, one by kayak, to move many items upstairs. We were very thankful that they were able to save family albums and historical postcards. The flood waters came and left during the night, rising to a level of 29 inches on the first floor.

Family and friends had already removed much of the furniture and debris along with plaster and lath by the time we arrived home Monday night. The process of drying the interior and replacing the foundation continued over the next few weeks.

A couple of weeks in, my brother Sid drove out from his home in Watertown, Wisconsin to help with the work of restoring the house. For a week I worked with our son Steven, son-in-law Todd, and my brothers, Sid and Ray, restoring floors, removing siding, installing windows and doors. It was a great time working together sharing stories and seeing first hand the skill and dedication to the task.

Cathy and I are temporarily living with Karen and Todd, who own the old Flanders family home at 65 North Main Street. I tell folks I’m back in my old room, but the rules are different! Sid also stayed with us while he was here. It was like old times when we were growing up and living in that house and walking to school. The highlight of the week was on Thursday night when Karen and Todd hosted a family gathering. Cathy prepared a meal that was enjoyed by Ray and his wife Eloise, Sid, Karen and Todd, and family friend, Jan Gendreau, who had spent many hours cleaning at the house. Many wonderful stories of the times growing up together in the house at North Main Street were shared, resulting in much laughter!

We are ever thankful for the faithful help of family and friends and for the memories that will long be remembered, thanks to Irene, who created the opportunity for us to be together and to work together.

- Skip Flanders, assisted by Jan Gendreau

“Come Right Away”

(This story does not appear in When the River Rose.)

I went to work the morning after the flood! We had been evacuated and stayed the night with our friends April and Zach Taylor on Perry Hill. I woke up early the next morning, and with little comprehension of what had just happened, swung down into the village on my way to work.

I saw Tom Stevens and Don Schneider, and a bunch of other folks I know, plus lots of media players, all standing near the Alchemist. They were gazing down Elm Street, which was still filled with water. I asked someone how Randall Street had fared and was told the Drakes had three feet of water in their first floor, which is on about the same level as my house. I had no idea what to do with that information, so I got back in my car and drove up to Fletcher Allen Health Care, where I was on a rotation in the Emergency Department. On the way I passed Bolton Flats, which was still filled with flood water, and the Richmond Park and Ride lot, which was also still flooded and had cars all jumbled up on top of each other.

I called my husband Steve then, knowing that he had been on his way to check on the house. I still thought we might just have some water in our basement, which had previously remained dry even during the heaviest of rainstorms.

I don’t know what I was thinking! He had just arrived at the house and all he could say was that it was really bad. A bit later he called me back and told me to come home right away. So I walked into the ED and told them I had to go home, which I did. Looking back, I just don’t understand why I behaved in such an illogical manner. It all seemed so unreal.

- Amy Odefey

Saving Patients in the Vermont State Hospital

(This story appears in When the River Rose.)

I was working at the Vermont State Hospital the night of the flood. It was about 8 p.m. when the emergency pagers went off and we received word that the water was rapidly rising outside. As we began to move patients from the basement rehab unit to the first floor, I looked out of a ground-level window to see it covered by water. Now I realized just how bad it was outside.

We managed to get the patients upstairs, then three of us went back to retrieve their mattresses. We stacked as many mattresses as we could on a dolly and sent them up in the elevator. I vividly remember carrying two mattresses, one under each arm, and looking left down a hallway to see a wave of water rolling toward me. Then I realized my feet were wet, and when I looked down and to my right I could see water pooling around my feet. It was coming from the area we had just cleared of mattresses.

We had just unloaded the elevator when the power went out. The generators kicked in only to fail 20 minutes later, leaving us with only a few flashlights to light the way for the rest of the night. By that time, the entire rehab unit was completely under water. Because the evacuation of patients happened so quickly we were unable to save any of the personal belongings of the patients. They lost everything they had. Through all this commotion, the patients remained very calm and cooperative with the staff.

- Jess Benway, N. Moretown