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Vermont braces for months of flood cleanup and recovery

According to initial estimates, the floods in Vermont have caused extensive damage, affecting over 4,000 homes and hundreds of businesses.
Vermont braces for months of flood cleanup and recovery
Posted at 8:03 PM, Jul 29, 2023

Weeks after catastrophic storms dumped two months of rain in two days over Vermont, causing floods around the state, people continue a long road to recovery.

The reality that rebuilding Vermont will take months as opposed to weeks is sinking in.

More than two weeks ago, Amber Poploski hoped her home would fare better in the torrential rains.

Downpours and flooding made roads in her town of Ripton, Vermont, impassable. She says a firefighter caught her attention, and then...

"I heard a noise, and then I shined my flashlight up. I see the tree coming up. I thought there’s no way I am going to make it out of this," said Poploski.

The Poploskis' home, which was sitting on a hillside, went tumbling down in a mudslide as the soil soaked from record rains.

"I ran down the hill, and then I had to wiggle out of whatever I was stuck under," said Poploski.

Miraculously, Poploski escaped serious injury. Her family and three dogs avoided danger too. She’s now nursing an ankle sprain, but she and her husband are dealing with the pain of losing just about everything.

"Every program they’re offering, you have to qualify for FEMA, but we don’t; they offered SBAA loans, but you need to be covered under FEMA," said Poploski.

Even though the Poploskis' home is a total write-off loss and the land is badly damaged, it’s in a county that has a disaster declaration. Their state senator says she’s trying to raise the issue and get them more help.

SEE MORE: Vermont farmers reeling after widespread flooding ruined crops

"Because FEMA determines everything on a county-by-county basis, even people in our county who have had major disasters happen to them have not yet been able to access the FEMA assistance," said State Senator Ruth Hardy.

The lawmaker added that when the state legislatures go back into session, it’s something they will have to examine.

Vermont's Emergency Management agency says more than 4,000 homes were damaged earlier in July, after two months of rain fell in two days, swelling rivers and causing mass floods.

Many in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, see a long road to recovery ahead.

"I think more people are coming into it, realizing with the time and the silt and category 3 contaminated waste, you gotta properly remove it," said business owner George Estes.

Many don masks in the downtown business district. It’s to guard against the dust from the dried-out silt and black mold festering in flood-damaged dry walls.

Woodbury Mountain Toys is an independent business that is now having to start from scratch. It's selling gift certificates to keep things running.

"We’ve got a lot of support. Working really hard, trying to get it done, we’re hoping for a good holiday season. It would be lovely if we could get open by October, when foliage is at its peak," said Karen Williams, owner of Woodbury Mountain Toys.

Vermont’s fall foliage draws plenty of tourists; businesses hope to recover by then, so people spend too. The Poploskis are hoping they can find solutions to rebuild their dream home.

"We went from having this almost paid off in four years to having to start all over," said Poploski.

The couple Scripps News spoke with is hoping a disaster declaration can include their county so they can get help faster.

In Montpelier, people have been left wondering if a new normal with climate change means they should rebuild their homes and businesses higher.


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