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State Releases Irene Recovery Report

Toby Talbot

The state has issued its latest report on the progress of the recovery effort following Tropical Storm Irene.

The report says while some work remains, it's time to look ahead to guard against future disasters.

According to the report it's likely that by the second anniversary of Irene in August much of the recovery work will be finished and the focus will shift to preparing for the next disaster. "The message is that we see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of what's been done and what we hope to get done in the next several months," says Ben Rose, recovery and mitigation chief at Vermont Emergency Management.

One sign of the transition from recovery to future disaster preparation is that as of this week, the state no longer has an Irene Recovery Officer. The responsibilities have been folded into Rose's job.

The report says 277 families and individual are still being helped by disaster case managers - and some new cases are still being opened more than 18 months after Irene.

Rose says by summer most of the cases will be closed. In all more than 7,000 homeowners filed with FEMA for Irene damages.

The recovery so far has been accomplished thanks to tens of millions in federal disaster money and unprecedented fundraising by local organizations, along with the marshalling of significant state and private resources and an army of volunteers.  

Rose says a big part of the recovery work that remains involves permanent repairs to roads and bridges damaged by Irene. 

"A little more than half of the permanent repair work got done in 2012 and there's a lot still to be done during the coming construction season,"he says.

Rose says beyond the continued recovery work, the pieces are being put in place to prepare for future disasters. They include ongoing training for state employees and local officials responsible for responding to emergencies.  

And there are changes from the past that include  clearer rules on stream work so communities can avoid problems with FEMA reimbursements, sand updated codes and standards for local roads and bridges along with new incentives for towns to protect river corridors.

In addition to state initiatives, there are also projects to help town governments plan for future disasters. 

The report says many aspects of Irene recovery will be completed this year but others will take years and it will be a long time before the effects of Irene are completely behind us.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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