Calm amidst the storm

"Calm amidst the storm" Continued...

Issue: "All tied up," Sept. 24, 2011

That included many in the Chester, Va., neighborhood where Thompson has lived for 35 years. Trees remained down in the backyards of three surrounding yards-including two that devastated homes into crumpled masses of mud, roofing material, dry wall, and limbs. As long as the power stayed out, extension cords ran from house to house as neighbors shared generators, and windows stayed open to catch any breeze in the absence of air conditioning. With more storms brewing in the Atlantic and the Gulf (one week after Irene, Tropical Storm Lee dumped more than a foot of rain in Gulf Coast areas over Labor Day weekend), these residents realize their post-hurricane routine may not be over soon: using camping stoves to boil hot water for coffee, backyard fences to dry clothes, and neighbors swapping breakfast in exchange for generator use.

At the Thompson home, chainsaw master Griffith carved the shape of a cross into a remaining stump while the rest of his Southern Baptist disaster relief team raked leaves and hauled brush away in wheel barrows.

"That's going to stay up as a nice reminder," said Thompson as she came outside to offer the crew a cooler of drinks. The team huddled around Thompson and presented her with a Bible they had signed, and finished the day's work by praying with her. "God, sometimes we don't understand why things happen," said Stringer. "Through all of this we pray we can say God is good. You always provide for us."

Fear & uncertainty

Flood rains hit Vermont's neediest hardest

By Tiffany Owens

Photo by Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press/AP

The worst flooding in Vermont in over 40 years occurred after Irene dumped seven inches of rain on the state on Aug. 28. The water overwhelmed historic bridges, washed out more than 260 roads and stranded residents in several towns. "We had to drive around the entire state," said Lt. Jason Brake with The Salvation Army who traveled from Maine to provide relief to Vermont's hardest hit areas. "There are parts of the roads that are totally impassable, swallowed by the river."

In Waterbury, Vt., Marilyn Reynolds, watching a nearby river suddenly surge toward her home, grabbed a purse and sweatshirt before driving to higher ground.

"I was in denial," Reynolds admitted. "I was shaking like a leaf ... I just couldn't believe it." She moved to wait at a church until she could make it to her sister's house in Barre, 20 miles away. They waited a day for the water to recede and then went to survey the damage: Two and a half feet of water, mixed with kerosene and thick mud, had flooded her trailer home.

"I walked in ... the mud was so thick and everything was upside down," said Joyce Dutil, Reynolds' sister. She picked up Reynolds' waterlogged wedding albums, and along with other family and friends tried to salvage dishes and other personal belongings. Reynolds is in her mid-60s, living off a small part-time job and Social Security. Now she isn't sure where to go.

"I don't know what to do," she said, "I've been praying a lot, asking the Lord to show me what to do." She spoke of her late husband, her voice shaking slightly: "We built everything together ... I wish he were here to help me." Reynolds isn't sure if she'll get a new trailer or an apartment or what financial help may be available-though some assistance seems likely from FEMA, The Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. She had no flood insurance and apartments in her area go for five times the rental cost of her trailer: "I feel like a door is closing on me and I've got to turn my life around."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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