News Features

VPR/Charlotte Albright

Two years ago, as Tropical Storm Irene battered Vermont, scores of people gathered near Woodstock, at the Taftsville Bridge, hoping that the bridge would survive. It didn’t fall into the Ottauquechee River, but it was badly damaged. So were two other bridges in the Upper Valley, which was among the areas hardest hit by the storm.

The state says Green Mountain Power could be fined $54,000 for violating sound standards at its Lowell wind project.

But the state agency that represents ratepayers says that instead of a fine, GMP should use the money to look into additional sound monitoring at the site.

The Public Service Board opened an investigation after it learned that sound from GMP’s wind turbines exceeded the board-imposed limits last winter.

VPR/Susan Keese

Work got underway this week on the demolition of the Dufresne Dam on the Battenkill in Manchester.

Fish and Wildlife officials say the dam has impeded fish migration for more than a century on Vermont’s most famous wild trout stream.

The Dufresne Dam once powered a sawmill, but the state has owned the property since the 1950’s. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has maintained the dam and kept the pond behind it open for recreational use.

Soon this upper stretch of the Battenkill’s main stem will become a free-flowing river once again.

Peter Vanderwarker

One of Vermont’s leading cultural institutions has just begun a new chapter.

The Shelburne Museum has opened the Pizzagalli Center For Art and Eduction, which features state-of-the-art galleries, classroom space and a 135-seat auditorium.

The Center will be open year-round, which is a major transition for the museum, which has operated seasonally since it’s founding by Electra Havermeyer Webb in 1947.

VPR's Neal Charnoff recently toured the new facilities with Shelburne museum director Tom Dennenberg.

The state has detected eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in more mosquitoes collected in areas of Whiting, Leicester and Brandon.

The viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and the three towns in Rutland and Addison Counties are considered hotspots for EEE.

But state infectious disease epidemiologist Erica Berl says there’s evidence the virus is much more widespread.

What to do with the old Perkinsville School building has been a hot topic of conversation in Weathersfield throughout the spring and summer. Conclusive answers have been hard to come by for citizens who would like to see the old building back in use. However, at its August 19 meeting, the Weathersfield Select Board took action to clear up at least one question. It's keeping the historic structure in the town's hands.

VPR/ Nancy Eve Cohen

In the two years since the flood, it’s been a tough journey for Vermonters as they process their trauma and loss.  Today many say they’re in a much better place. Several survivors in southern Vermont  recently spoke about what’s helped them move forward.

When the Deerfield River raged through Wilmington two years ago it left Bartleby’s Books a muddy mess. Owner Lisa Sullivan says right after the flood what helped her the most was getting things done.

“We needed to remove the dry wall. We needed to fix the front of the building,” recalled Sullivan.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The news that Vermont Yankee will close next year has state and local officials focused on what’s next. They’d like the site in Vernon to be used for a power plant or for industrial development.

But experts say decommissioning the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will take at least a decade, despite the state’s hopes for a faster timetable.

When Entergy executives announced that Yankee would be shutdown next year, they indicated the site in Vernon could be in limbo for many years. Jeff Forbes is chief nuclear officer for Entergy.

AP/Toby Talbot

The state office complex in Waterbury has been largely empty since Tropical Storm Irene flooded it two years ago, and the displacement of state workers has hurt many local businesses that depended on them.

Thursday the state announced that FEMA would provide a critical piece of construction funding.

It won’t necessarily speed up the project, but the announcement was an important step on the way to returning state employees to Waterbury. Ever since Irene Albert Caron has been down to just one full time person at his Waterbury village garage – himself. 

Tropical Storm Irene was a traumatic event for many Vermonters, and one can only imagine how the storm and its aftermath affected children.

A non-profit organization in central Vermont known as the Arts Bus Project is allowing children to work through the complicated healing process by giving them creative channels to express their emotions.

Director Cynthia Sandusky says that drawing, music and poetry can help children articulate what they can't put into words.

AP/Toby Talbot

For the past several months, VPR has been working on a project we’re calling Mapping the Money. It takes a look at all the money spent on Tropical Storm Irene recovery and breaks it down into manageable pieces—how much has been spent by the state, and on what projects, where the millions of dollars from FEMA went, and how different NGOs spent their money.

And it’s all done with maps, so you can find out how much money your town received.

Susan Keese- VPR

One of the towns hit hardest by Tropical Storm Irene was Wilmington. The village, with its inns, shops and restaurants, has long been a commercial hub for the Mount Snow region. In the storm, nearly every downtown business was damaged or destroyed.

But the town is coming back.

On a Saturday, at the corner of Routes 9 and 100 in Wilmington a crowd gathers around a street musician playing a guitar.

AP/ Toby Talbot

Vermont’s largest hospital says it will reduce its proposed budget to meet the state’s guidelines to contain health care costs.

Health care regulators cheered the news. The chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board says this year’s overall budget increase for all 14 Vermont hospitals should be the lowest in years.

VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen

Two years ago Tropical Storm Irene inundated much of Vermont.  It was the beginning of a long recovery process that still continues.

Governor Peter Shumlin was in Wilmington Wednesday to mark the storm’s anniversary and release the final Irene Recovery Status report.

Downtown Wilmington was especially hard hit by the flood. The Deerfield River took over the main street, including the famous Dot’s Restaurant. But now there’s a bit of celebration in the air.

“Everybody say ‘Dot’s!’”

Social service advocates and the state have settled a lawsuit over the investigation of reports of adult abuse.

Vermont Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont had sued the state over concerns that reports of abuse were not being responded to quickly enough and not investigated adequately.

Barbara Prine, lead attorney of Vermont Legal Aid, said since the lawsuit was filed in late 2011, the state office of Adult Protection Services has largely eliminated a backlog of abuse cases. But other issues remained.

The Town of Brighton has voted to join its neighboring town, Newark, in appealing a recent decision by the Vermont Public Service Board to grant a Certificate of Public Good to the Seneca Mountain Wind project.

AP/Toby Talbot

When Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont two years ago, more than 200 homes and businesses in Waterbury were flooded. The state office complex and the state hospital were rendered unusable. Doctors at the state hospital scrambled to find places for the 17 patients in the facility before the flood reached dangerous levels. And state workers rushed to save critical paperwork and archival material.

Tomorrow the governor will announce plans to fund the demolition and reconstruction of the state office complex with a combination of state money, insurance funds, and FEMA reimbursements.

VPR/Melody Bodette

This week, Vermont Edition is reflecting on the drama, the challenges and the triumphs that people around the state experienced in the storm’s aftermath. Here is a sampling of the sounds and voices from the days after the storm.

In Newfane, Vermonters Struggle To Get Home

Dave Moore, the Town of Newfane's Emergency Management Director, has been at the firehouse fielding calls since Irene struck early Sunday.

VPR/Nina Keck

Tropical Storm Irene temporarily or permanently displaced more than 1,400 people in Vermont.

76-year-old Evelyn Payette was one of them. If you drive along Route 100 in Pittsfield you can still see her bent and battered mobile home on the side or the road. 

Payette is one of 23 Vermont homeowners who have recently received a FEMA buyout. While the money is welcome, the nearly two years it’s taken to get has taken a toll.

AP / Jason R. Henske

The news that Entergy Corporation of Louisiana would close the Vermont Nuclear Power plant at the end of 2014 struck like a bombshell yesterday. But for some long-time observers and reporters tracking the saga of Vermont’s only nuclear facility, the news wasn’t entirely surprising.

Mitch Wertlieb sat down with VPR’s John Dillon, to talk about what’s next for Yankee, and for the future of energy in Vermont.

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