Washed Out Roads, Bridges Leave Some Vermonters Stranded

Neighbors are working together to restore bridges.

A section of Route 9 in Marlboro, Vermont has been washed away.
Photo:Nancy Eve Cohen
Washed Out Roads, Bridges Leave Some Vermonters Stranded
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Washed Out Roads, Bridges Leave Some Vermonters Stranded

In Connecticut losing power has been a big problem post Irene. In Vermont people have had a hard time getting around. About 65 roads are closed there and dozens of bridges are out . WNPR’s Nancy Cohen took a road trip in the southern part of the state and found some people are still stuck at home.

On route 112 in Halifax a stretch of road is missing. The asphalt has caved into the North River. A guard rail  is under water.  But  despite the conditions Brianna Inman is heading northwest to Whitingham

“This is my first time attempting to go back home. We’re lucky we live on top of the mountain, but going down  there’s a brook that goes down and everything is washed out back there.”

Washed out roads are everywhere in southern Vermont. But some people know how to find their way. Mark Washkevich is buying a cold drink inside the Jacksonville general store. He’s wearing a UPS uniform.

I came in through Jacksonville Stage. Over the Green River Covered Bridge which I think is one of the on lt covered bridges left

I ask him if he thinks I can make it to Newfane by heading towards north and then east . He’s not optimistic.

“You’re not going to make it.”

“So how should I go? Route 9?”

“There’s not a lot of Route 9 left anymore.”

I decide to take my chances.. I head up 100 and then east on 9. Along the way parts of the road have broken off. Orange cones line the edge warning drivers to be careful .

 I just passed a sign that says “Road Closed” on the opposite lane, but it doesn’t seem to be closed on my side, so I’m going to keep going... see what happens.

Eventually, I get to a spot in Marlboro where Route 9, a major east west road, has turned to dirt. Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn is here checking things out. 

“State’s working on it as quickly as they can to try to get it open for emergency vehicles. That’s where we are at right now. There’s a number of wash–outs they’re working on. They got crews all  up and down Route 9 trying to get it filled in.”

Edward Gilbert is operating an excavator. But he needs more supplies, like gravel and stone

“We can’t get it out of Brattlebor because the roads are washed out and the trucks are coming so far away.  It’s just one every two hours. It’s a slow process.”

In the meantime he’s digging up asphalt that was washed into Whetstone Brook next to Route 9

“We’ re trying to put the road back is what it is.  It’s in the river so it takes a long process.”

“You can’t get any further east on this road so I turn around and head west. Lisa Hecht, the Emergency management Director for the Town of Marlboro takes me down Augur Hole Road where a group of men are trying to put back the first in a series of bridges that have washed away.”

“We have to fix this to get to the next one. And then you fix the next one to get to the next one. And it goes all the way like that all the way to south Newfane.”

Farmer Dave Matt has brought his skidder down here to help out. He  explains what happened to the bridge

“It  somehow came off its foundation... and then floated down stream this far into this section here. You can see it’s like a ten foot drop into the brook. We had to pull it out of the brook and it took the excavator, the town’s payloader and my skidder to get it up out of here

Matt and many of the other men here are neighbors volunteering their time to get the road open.

“Just trying to do what we can. There’ s so much to do. We’re just trying do whatever might help,.”

“Do you know how many people are stuck?”

“Oh boy from here to South Newfane I have no idea. Lots of people! I mean South Newfane is almost isolated down there. The road up hill and the road down hill is gone. And the road up this way is gone. “

71 year old Gordon Turner lives between this bridge and a second one that was washed away.

“Haven’t been able to get out now since Sunday”

But he says it hasn’t bothered him or his wife.

“Plenty of water. Got  an electric generator that runs the water pump, lights, two freezers full. We stay prepared up here .”

They’re not only prepared. These neighbors know how to get things done. They managed to get a truck load of gravel, something that’s as good as gold in these parts. And they hope to have this bridge open today.

For WNPR I’m Nancy Cohen