WILLIAMSVILLE, Vt. (CN) – Entire communities in Southern Vermont remain cut off by flooding that washed out roads and bridges, took out houses, and dumped one in the middle of the road to ski country.
Three thousand people live in the villages of Newfane and Dover, but it’s hard to say how many residents are stranded, as roads over the 16 miles of mountains between Williamsville and Mount Snow are impassable even by bicycle.
A Courthouse News reporter on Tuesday pedaled up the lone paved road through Williamsville, past a house swept into the normally placid Rock River, past pastures and yards turned into mud flats, until the road was blocked by a tangle of fallen trees, and a house swept off its foundations and dropped into the road.
The only major east-west route across southern Vermont, Route 9, remained closed Wednesday, washed out in several places by floods.
Route 9 goes west uphill from Brattleboro over the mountains to Bennington through Wilmington, which was devastated by Hurricane Irene. One of Vermont’s four flood deaths came there. Marlboro lies between Brattleboro and Wilmington.
Marlboro, home to the famous annual music festival that ended 2 weeks ago, is inaccessible except by side roads, most of which are wiped out too.
An entire block of businesses on Brattleboro’s Flat Street was flooded Sunday night. But the scene in Brattleboro, population 12,000, was idyllic compared to the devastation in Williamsville 12 miles north.
Dover Road, a paved 2-lane route, climbs from state Route 30 westward 9 miles to the summit, then down another 9 miles to Route 100 and Mount Snow, the first big resort in Vermont’s ski country. The road is closed at Williamsville, 2 miles west of Route 30.
A bike rider made it uphill for another mile, where the scene quickly came to resemble a black-and-white Civil War photo by Matthew Brady.
A 2-acre brown mudflat sat where a sylvan meadow used to be. A house stood on each side of the road, but the toys, swing sets, parked cars and cars up on blocks that had once stood there were swept away. Little outbuildings leaned or lay crumpled in the mud.
Eerily, you could not even see the river that had wrought the destruction. It had retreated beyond the treeline.
Dover Road had collapsed in chunks. Macadam hung 4 feet over nothing. Elsewhere the road was simply gone. Earth-moving equipment had dumped dirt into holes and made it passable, until the scene of wreckage and the house that had floated down from somewhere and come to rest in the road.
A construction worker there, on a motorcycle, said he didn’t know how bad it was in the 16 miles beyond; he hadn’t been able to get through.
Dover Road crosses at least four more bridges in the 6½ miles to the summit, where a boarding school sits. Those bridges are certainly gone. And all the side roads, which are unpaved, tend to rejoin the main road at such junctions, so the side roads are impassable too.
At one of the last houses before the impasse, a woman sat at an impromptu Lost and Found stand, handing out free lemonade to work crews.
“We stayed Sunday until the river came up over our yard,” she said. “Then we got out. The people up there are cut off. They can’t get out unless they walk out.”
Downhill at the West River a Vermont State Trooper directed traffic to the detour through Williamsville. The Route 30 bridge across the Rock River has been closed for fear it might topple.
Drivers stopped to ask the trooper if she knew of alternative routes to Marlboro. “I don’t know,” she said in response to most questions. “I haven’t been able to get through there.”
Wardsboro, which lies off of Dover Road, is the last Vermont community whose residents have not been reached even by airlift, according to news reports this morning (Wednesday).