On the road, in the rain.
I bought hip boots. My NYC friends assume this purchase to be stylish. Hip-high leather boots are coveted and the girls were shocked to learn I bought a pair. I swear I have a sense of style, just not in the 802 area code, it’s not practical. This spring was proof of that. My hip boots were a steal at $30. And no, they’re not leather. Seamless rubber with buckles to boot, these camo-green beauties keep not only my toes and feet dry, but my entire leg. The only thing more attractive than my new look is my new walk. Waddling in hip-high, camo-green, fisherman boots means I’ve developed a swagger not unlike The Duke of Hollywood’s old west. Instead of bending, my legs seem to rotate and swivel in circles until I eventually get to where I’m going. The bonus? Stepping into deep, thick mud. I’m dry but look more like a coat rack for cameras than a working photographer. It’s a good look. Trust me, people don’t stop and point. They don’t.
We’ve had a rainy spring here in Vermont. No, we’ve had a downpour, flooding actually, that has taken over the shores of Lake Champlain, the rivers that feed it and the homes that buffer it. I’ve posted about this before thinking we may have seen the last of it? Unfortunately no. Mother Nature has tested Vermonters this year with incredible winds, hail storms, massive snow dumps and now flooding. It’s been pretty unreal up here. As you can imagine, much of the press coverage has shifted to weather. Everyday we chased rain, water and the inevitable aftermath. The two photos above were taken for a special section the Burlington Free Press published on the Burlington Intervale. The Intervale is an incredible resource rich with farming traditions. Small commercial operations and community gardens sew their seeds side by side. I stopped by Arethusa Farm to check in on them. The Intervale is in a flood plain and is no stranger to excess water, but this year was a bit much. The farmers explained to me the fields are surviving but look much like fields of April…not June. Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss (pictured above) echoed that response but was glad his garden is in the slightly elevated portion of the Tommy Thompson Community Gardens. Kiss was tending to his strawberries and trimming greens for a fresh salad when I met up with him last week. The mayor and I crossed paths yesterday where he informed me a pack of deer delighted in his strawberry patch. Oops. I’m curious to see the impact we feel here in Vermont when summer is in full swing and farms haven’t quite fully rebounded. We’re all used to local produce come summer time and I think the pickings will be a bit slim.
Linus Hanratty of Arethusa Farm uses a wheel hoe to tend the celeriac crops at the Burlington Intervale on Friday June 10, 2011.
Flash floods. On my way back to the newsroom from an assignment I got caught in a small, quick storm. Heavy rain and hail forced me to slow as I watched water gushing down the hillside of Winooski into Burlington. In a twist of fate, I was driving my husband’s truck rather than my tiny compact and was able to get to these photos. The unfortunate twist of fate? The hip boots were still in the trunk of my car. I rolled my pant legs up to me knees in a failed effort to stay dry. One hop from the drivers seat landed me in knee-high water. Wet jeans. The owner of a car wash was busy raking debris from the storm drain outside of his shop in an effort to alleviate the flooding. The flood came in an instant and cleared out maybe 15 minutes later. Bizarre. Oops, retrieved my floating sandal. But in that time I snapped a few photos and found a bit of humor. To say this car wash is automatic is an understatement.
Thanks to the guy who spotted us and sped up. Free mid-day showers are a great luxury – but at least it made for a great photo.
Off to Barre. Poor Barre was hit hard overnight by a massive flood with reported six foot high waters. Flash flood. The next morning I was sent down to the central Vermont town to cover the aftermath. It was a mess. The National Guard was working to control traffic and access to the area while residents and business owners scrambled to collect themselves, pump their basements and move their cars…which had floated away.
Entire roadways were decimated by the raging flood waters. Hundred year old trees snapped in half, power lines were downed and culverts snapped. It was a disaster. Luckily, people were safe, but their property took a beating. People up here don’t know how to react to situations like this. We’re unprepared as this kind of weather seems foreign and unexpected. Not being entirely familiar with Barre, I was reliant on the locals to give me tips as I cruised around looking for flood damage. One check point or road block led to another where I popped in an out of severe damage zones all the while bypassing the many closed roads and bridges along the way. Everyone wanted to help. Teenage boys volunteering to help with traffic control scrambled to list the best spots to capture the aftermath. An old man sitting outside of his mobile home threw me a wave as a I crept along his road in search of damage. It was easy to find. His small trailer sat on an island. Flood waters had taken his backyard and the surrounding roads. We shouted at each other over the growl of the generator now powering his home. His wife was inside on oxygen and he worried about losing power. The old man had lived in Barre his whole life and had never witnessed something like this so he decided to take it in. He sat quietly on his folding chair scanning the view looking for some semblance of the land he lived on yesterday. Unreal. Back to my car I had three more roadways to check out. I tossed my GPS in the backseat and relied on the word at the next road closing. I’m glad I did as I made far more images that way.
More photos and full Free Press story here: Vermont struggles to dig out from most serious flash flooding in decades
A couple surveys the damage to Richardson Rd. in Barre on Friday May 27, 2011.
Wayne Kendall props a pump under his foot in an effort to pump out the basement of a business in Barre on Friday morning May 27, 2011.
Derek Jarvis climbs through the washed out portion of Averill Road in Barre on Friday May 27, 2011.
Breakwaters Cafe and Grill is a favorite summer spot. It’s seasonal, so when Breakwaters opens its doors the city knows summer has started. Unfortunately, with Lake Champlain’s recent flooding their doors remain closed – if they still have doors? Talking with the owner yesterday he described how entire walls were gone. Not damaged, but gone. The waitstaff, bartenders and hostesses worked in the sun yesterday to paint the new walls. Being seasonal help I’d imagine there was some stress when they learned their job wasn’t starting on time, but luckily Breakwaters found some projects to keep them busy, and keep them on the payroll. The girls rolled up their sleeves, commented on each others tans (or sunburns) and grabbed a paint brush or a roller to get their business back in shape. Two weeks they said. That’s when they want to get back to work.
After all the storms passed the annual, and primarily outdoor, Burlington Discover Jazz Festival rolled into town for a week of jazz, funk and reggae. Always a local favorite, the festival brings a New Orleans beat and flavor to this small Northeastern city. I was tasked to shoot the Bonerama/viperHouse show on the Burlington Waterfront. Not a bad gig. The moves this trombone trio could throw down were incredible. So agile, so precise these guys impressed me. It was a fantastic show and a great way to wrap the work week…until the clouds rolled in. And, we got rained out.