Love in the Time of Irene

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

My department at the hospital where I work was wonderful about arranging time off for me. I was basically told to take the time that I needed, which was an amazing gift. They wanted to do more, but I initially thought there was little they could do from Burlington.

A few days after the flood, we realized that we needed to dry out the house, and do so quickly, if we wanted to escape the threat of mold and rot. Steve tried to locate some dehumidifiers – we had one before the flood, but it had been in the basement and thus was submerged and ruined – but the stores were all out and local friends’ machines were spread far and wide with so many wet houses. I put a call in to my department asking if anyone could loan us dehumidifiers or fans.

The next morning we got to our house to start working and found a big collection of dehumidifiers and fans sitting on our front porch. One of the attending physicians had shuttled around to department members’ homes to collect the machines and then driven down to deliver them to our home. I burst into tears at the sight: love in the time of Irene.

My program director showed up that afternoon with still more machines to loan. We had 10 dehumidifiers running 24/7 for more than a week. At first we were pulling in excess of 20 gallons of water each day out of the house. By the time we measured the moisture content of any wood it was down to 8%, which I think may have been drier than it was before the flood.

The FAHC Anesthesia Department played a big part in saving our home.

- Amy Odefey

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

“What Can I Do to Help?”

(This story appears in When the River Rose.)

I was just sort of mopping mud out of the inside of the house and was still in a state of shock when someone just came by and said, “What can I do to help?”

I said, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” And she said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “I’m just mopping out mud right now. And she grabbed the mop out of my hand, and she said, “I’m a good mopper. I’ll do that.” And so she just took the mop right out of my hand and started mopping the floor.

I just wandered through the house to find something else to do. Literally, not ten minutes later, somebody else walked in the house and said, “What are you doing? Can I help you?” And I said, “I’m just pressure washing the driveway.” And he said, “Oh, I can do that for you. I’m a great washer.”

And the people that just came by one after another and wouldn’t allow me to turn them away from helping. They just said, “Here, let me take that mop out of your hand. Let me take the pressure washer out of your hand. Let me do it for you.”

- Eric Smith