Irene Aftermath

Tropical Storm Irene over New England (photo from ABC News)

Wednesday, August 31st: 

The death toll has risen to 42 across 13 states, after Hurricane Irene carved a path of disaster up the east coast this past weekend. Despite the cessation in heavy rains and winds, Vermont is still recovering, while their have been fresh rounds of evacuations in New Jersey and Connecticut prompted by the fear of swelling rivers.

In Washington DC, FEMA Director Craig Fugate is shrugging off the prospect that Disaster Relief funds being held up in Congress due to legislative gridlock. House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has stated that all funding for disaster relief should be provided, but must be off-set by spending cuts elsewhere in order to avoid deepening the deficit.

In Western Massachusetts, the assessments and rebuilding begin. National Grid  reports that as of 1:30pm ET between 346-351 residents in the Pioneer Valley remain without power.Some in Hampden and Hampshire county could be without power for days.  Meanwhile, Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) says that 295 of its customers scattered among six towns are facing the same condition.

Greenfield’s DPW has begun what could be the long process of  getting  the sewage leaking into the Deerfield and Connecticut River’s under control that has occurred due to storm damage; by installing a screen that blocks large debris in the form of sewage from entering the river. All water going into the plant is also being disinfected  It could be weeks though before the plant is up and running at previous capacity.

In a positive development for commuters,  I-91 Southbound could be reopened to traffic.

The havoc Irene wrecked on the Berkshire’s and Franklin County will likely be felt economically in the coming months. Just as tourists from all over were set to come to Western Massachusetts communities in the Northwest for the Labor Day weekend and begin leaf peeping, small businesses across the Berkshires and Franklin County have been closed or severely damaged by flooding. Touristic attractions such as Historic Deerfield have been affected, as its Inn will be closed for the foreseeable future. The Valley which also prides itself on its locally grown crops, but much of  those in the soil could now be ruined.

Impassable roads and flood damage have made the tiny community of  Hawley in effect an island cut off from outsider help, for its residents that number just a little more than three hundred.

The superfluous waters of the Connecticut River are likely to start to calm today.

 

Tuesday, August 30:

    

The House of Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach has been lost to flooding. (Picture courtesy of celebrity-pics.movie.com) The

Skies might have been bright today, but the eastern seaboard is still recovering from ‘Irene’ . The relentless winds from the storm caused swelling tributaries, rising flood waters, destroyed property, and power outages up the Eastern seaboard.The number of casualties taken by the forces of Irene’s wrath are now reported to be  around  forty.  Among them is an 82-year-old holocaust survivor, who died in the storm when the interior of her Catskills cottage became submerged in flood waters.

Countless properties have incurred damage and even the famous (or once famous aren’t immune). A case in point is former Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach, whose New Jersey home is among the afflicted. The former hair band front man said his New Jersey house had to abandoned his home due to heavy flooding. Bach says on his Facebook page that high levels of water brimming from a nearby reservoir stationed near his now former residence has weakened the soundness of his house’s structure. One end of a severed bridge snapped in two by Irene also was launched right into his garage.

Though Bach hasn’t been permitted to survey the ruins of his waterlogged home, he said that an array of Skid Row memorabilia and KISS collectibles are likely to be casualties of the storm.

Closer to home, Vermont has been plagued by as much as eleven inches of rain. as the National Guard is airlifting food and supplies to those residents stranded in twelve Vermont communities.

Difficulties persist in Western Massachusetts. Flood warnings are still in effect. Overflowing waters from the Deerfield River was a chief contributor to much of the destruction in Franklin County. Residents of  Shelburne Falls, whose small downtown area lies along the river; were forced to evacuate Sunday. Homeowners and proprietors of businesses alike aregetting a glimpse of  the floods aftermath and beginning  to clean-up.  Wells that are the source of water for much of the village lost power Sunday night and inhabitants are being told to conserve water since there is only an estimated two and a half day supply of water left.

Those living along the Deerfield River are also being warned of raw sewage that could be in the water, following the loss of power at a raw sewage plant in Greenfield.

Elsewhere  problems continue, as it was believed that the Connecticut River would crest today, subjecting those who live in South Hadley Falls to yet more flooding. Emergency officials are warning all boaters and swimmers to keep out of the river, as the water levels are exceeding its holding capacity.

Nuestras Raices, Holyoke’s community farm; has seen the land and crops of fifteen local farmers ruined by flood watersPollutants in the water from the Connecticut  says one worker at the farm, has rendered the crops unusable.

The Marinas along parts of the Connecticut River have clearly been impacted.

Electricity has been restored to the bulk of Western Massachusetts. But there remains some without power. Western Massachusetts Electric Company as of 7pm ET projected that only seventy-three of its customers remain without power.National Grid estimates that 710 households in Western Massachusetts are without power ( Berkshire county 35, Franklin 133, Hampden 497, and Hampshire 45). The part of the state with the most still in the dark is Norfolk County.  Overall as many as five million are said to still be dealing with outages.

Could the pain caused by Daniel soon be sucked into the vortex of  the conservative insistence on off-setting funding for disaster relief with spending cuts elsewhere? As unbelievable and frustrating as it might be, that could be the case.

 

Monday August 29th:

The day after Hurricane turned Tropical storm Irene pummeled the east coast of the United States; the scars from the flooding, high winds, downed trees, and power outages remain.

So far the casualties are said to number about thirty-five across ten states. Among those dead are an 89-year old woman  who was killed when a tree limb brought down power lines onto her house which then sparks a fire which consumed her house. In Vermont, the body of a 20 year-old  woman swept away by the rapids has been found.

Massachusetts has also reported its first casualty of the tropical storm and its a sad reminder that well the fury of Irene may have been spent last night dangers still remains. The deceased has been identified as 52-year old Richard Gorgone of Southbridge, a public works employee who was electrocuted by a downed wire when he was leaving his house Monday morning to head to work.

Locally, flood warnings remain in affect for Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties until early Wednesday, as bodies of water across the Pioneer Valley have been swelled due to the heavy rainfall and the fierce winds that have transformed them into dangerous rapids.

Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) meanwhile is appraising the devastation in Franklin County which was one of the areas of the state afflicted with the most damage. Patrick visited Greenfield Community College, where a number of National Guards troops were headquartered to aid in the evacuations and relief efforts. The area faced heavy flooding, downed trees, and property damage.

Various streets in Franklin County have also been closed, including areas accustomed to heavy traffic such as I-91 southbound between Sunderland and Greenfield. The route will be closed until state inspectors determine that the Still Water Bridge which came under heavy assault from rushing waters, is deemed to be stable. However, the Northbound lanes of I-91 were re-opened to passage Monday morning.. Routes 5 and 10 are  also once again open.

In a sparsely populated neighborhood in the town  of Beckett a damn was said to have burst, and in Rowe water levels exceeded the capacity of the Bear Swamp Damn. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has a list posted of roads throughout the state which are closed as of 6am Monday.

The ‘Flower Bridge’ that beckons so many  to the downtown area of Shelburne Falls will be closed to the public until inspectors can determine if it is safe. The Iron Bridge also remains closed. Nearby residents were forced to evacuate the area and as of now have still not be permitted to return to their dwellings.

Westfield residents who were told to evacuate their homes though due to the heavy rapids of the Westfield River and other bodies of water, have been permitted to head back  home.

Elsewhere in Hampden county, residents of an Agawam apartment complex and those who live on Riveria Drive  which rests along the Connecticut River, have been evacuated due to concerns over possible flooding.

In Belchertown some 861 homes and businesses are said to still be in the dark,and they aren’t the only ones. Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO)  says that damage to its electric units brought on by continued high winds last night, have added to the woes of thousands of its customers.  Currently, WMECO  has  2,262 lacking electricity in some thirty-two communities, as of 5:30pm ET  Monday afternoon. The closure of some roads and bridges in the aftermath of the flooding likely is thwarting efforts to restore power more quickly.

Throughout the state, as many as 500,000 are said to still be without power, and could remain for a few days.

It’s not  all sad news though. On one final and more uplifting note of local news,  a Goshen Fire chief and his six-year-old daughter saved the lives of five one week old kittens when they found them yesterday stranded in a cardboard box in the Big Y parking lot in Northampton. It just goes to show that in times of the greatest peril the most humanitarian angels of our nature can prevail.

Efforts are also underway nationally to calculate the amount in dollars inflicted upon the east coast by Irene. This is something that will no doubt take days, weeks, or maybe even a couple of months to fully determine, but the starting estimate seems to be pegged at about $7 billion. The New York City subway also came back to life Monday morning, after being closed Sunday due to weather related dangers.

In her latest crass and zany display of stupidity, religious fundamentalism, and cold hearted attitude; Republican presidential contender and Tea Party icon Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R, MN- 6)  tied the havoc wrecked by ‘Irene’ because God wants D.C politicians to cut spending.

  “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people, because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet, and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

This is usually the terrain of those on the religious right who claim God sends Natural disasters to eviscerate property, displace and yes, even kill people to punish those who support gay rights, the teaching of evolution, and other such heathenish acts, but for a presidential candidate who describes herself as a ‘serious person’ this is beyond repugnant. Later a campaign spokesperson said the comments (much like the candidate herself) was a joke.  Really Michelle (I won’t even afford you the respect of addressing you as ‘Congresswoman’)? All that devastation and death is just God’s way of saying ‘come join the tea party’?

It’s totally not surprising though that such an absurd statement would emanate from Bachmann. After all, every time she opens her mouth, the collective I.Q of our country seems to go down another five points. Those who reside in the Minnesota sixth congressional district should be embarrassed that they ever elected this heartless flake.

Then on a media related note it seems that pay walls were another thing knocked down by Irene in a matter of speaking, as several news websites allowed consumers to get news for free Sunday that is typically available only to paid subscribers.

 Updated (7:54PM)- The death toll from Irene now stands at 37, the latest three casualties were in Vermont. A fourth is missing and believed to be dead.

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