Vermont Flood Survivors Reflect on Houston Tragedy

The destruction brought by Hurricane Harvey hits close to home for people who suffered severe property losses in Tropical Storm Irene

The destruction from Hurricane Harvey in Texas has many in New England reflecting on their experience with the deadly floodwaters brought by Tropical Storm Irene six years ago this week.

“You lose a lot of pictures of your children that you’ll never recover, and other items you’ll never get back,” sighed Bob Goodell, who suffered severe property losses in August 2011 when Irene sent floodwaters roaring through Weston’s Mobile Home Park in Berlin, Vermont.

Goodell lived with a relative for four months while he rebuilt on a different road within Weston’s.

Now, the still-unfolding Texas tragedy has Goodell reflecting on all the flood victims there, who he knows have it much worse than he and his neighbors did in Irene.

“It can take its toll on you really bad, emotionally,” Goodell told NBC Boston, describing the impact of property losses and other stress caused by a natural disaster. “You’ve just got to try to stay strong, and keep moving forward and just do the best you can.”

Food writer Alice Levitt was moved by sights of destruction in communities around Vermont when she lived in the state during Irene and wrote for the newspaper Seven Days. Today, Levitt lives in Houston and writes for Houstonia Magazine.

Levitt said her high-lying neighborhood was spared the worst of Hurricane Harvey, but noted roads out are impassible.

“All of the highways are underwater,” she said.

Additionally, dangerous water has left friends elsewhere in the city evacuated to safe places or stranded on second floors, she said.

“In crisis, we just go into a mode where we can exist,” Levitt told NBC Boston.

Neale Lunderville was Vermont’s Irene recovery officer right after the 2011 storm, helping reopen ruined roads and bridges, and pointing communities to ways they could start the process of getting back on their feet.

Lunderville now works as the general manager of the Burlington Electric Department.

“Our hearts are with them,” Lunderville said of the victims of flooding in Houston and other affected Texas communities. “Houston is in for a long road to recovery. It is going to take years for them to build back their homes — their infrastructures.”

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, addressed the tragedy in Texas in a statement Monday on the six-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene.

“Our thoughts are with the communities in Texas currently facing the impact of Hurricane Harvey,” Scott said. “Vermont stands ready to lend support and the knowledge gained through our experience recovering from Irene.”

In that statement, the governor also said the anniversary of Irene should be a time to reflect on ways to make Vermont more resilient to flooding, including infrastructure improvements, addressing climate change, and clean water and flood mitigation initiatives.

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