Smaller they are, harder they fall

I’ve been trying to summarize the damage in Vermont to those onlookers from afar, starting last night with the Wall Street Journal and all day today for the hundreds of people on this blog and the thousands and tens of thousands on the Herald’s live blog.

In a nutshell: If you have favorite memories of a small town or village built around a small stream, it’s almost undoubtedly devastated by the flooding. Because of the volume of rain, water levels shot up in smaller creeks and waterways, overwhelming dams, culverts, roads, walls, stream banks and building foundations. This is true in tiny places and large: Jamaica, Wilmington, Pittsfield, Rutland, Brattleboro, Brandon, Woodstock, Quechee, Clarendon, Vergennes, Castleton, Ludlow … the list goes on and on. Small streams simply exploded out of their banks. The places that avoided the worst damage this time were largely on the bigger streams, few of which flooded.

Many of our treasured covered bridges were lost or badly damaged, including Taftsville, Bartonsville and Quechee.

Roadways and bridges are undermined all over the state; railbeds are out in places, so transportation is going to be the big issue moving forward. Expect it to take weeks for everything to be passable.

That said, it could have been worse, much. Big storms tend to either move relatively slowly and dump a lot of rain or to move quickly and blow things down. Had Irene followed the same path, rained anywhere near as much and had sustained winds in the 60-70 mph range, which NOAA said was possible, the number of deaths, injuries and damages would be magnitudes larger.

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