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Community Spotlight: Flood Recovery in Barre and Montpelier, Vermont

September 13, 2023 | Community Spotlight: Flood Recovery in Barre and Montpelier, Vermont | By: Kathy La Plante, Senior Director of Coordinating Programs | 
 Left: Kathy La Plante, Anne Ball, Abby Furrey, Traci Lewis, and Gary Holloway. Photo by Tripp Muldrow. Right: Contractors work on repairing a downtown business in Montpelier. Photo by Kathy La Plante.
Last week, I traveled to Montpelier and Barre, Vermont, with Anne Ball (Program Director at Maine Downtown Center), Abby Furrey (Coordinator at Boston Main Streets), Traci Lewis (Executive Director at Barre Downtown Partnership) and Gary Holloway (Downtown Program Manager at Vermont Downtown Program) to learn about the impacts of the flooding that occurred in these Main Street communities as a result of prolonged heavy rainfall in mid-July. Here are some stories from business owners and residents. 
Dente’s Market remains closed after the flooding. The owner barely escaped with his life, as he couldn’t get either of his doors open due to the rushing water. The flood water came up so quickly and high; he couldn’t imagine the water’s strength. His upstairs tenants helped him to push his back door open part way. Inside the market, several hundred-pound coolers were floating. His family has been in the location since 1907.
We visited with one of the owners of Bear Pond Books, which just recently reopened. They were warned about flooding at 11 am and by 5 pm the streets were filling with water. They lost 3,000 books and all of the store's computers – including all of their data. Everything – inventory, customer database, etc. – gone. 
Some businesses do not know if they will reopen. They know it will flood again. Flood insurance is so costly. Anne noted that Maine communities have buildings that no one will buy because of past flooding and the cost of insurance. In Montpelier, people were talking about moving HVAC systems out of their basements and not using them for storage anymore – but now they worry: where will they store everything? One restaurant has their prep kitchen in the basement – they can’t anymore. 
Many businesses had small signs in their window sharing the ways that people can support them through this time. Even if they aren't fully open yet, people can still shop online or buy gift cards for future use. The communities have really come together to support local business owners where possible.
From left to right: Speaking with the owner of Dente's Market; Restoration work in progress at a business in downtown Montpelier; A Montpelier business uses a sign to communicate their current operations. Photos by Kathy La Plante.
September is National Preparedness Month. Natural disasters are increasing worldwide. These events pose a serious threat to downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. There are steps that Main Street leaders can take now to mitigate their effects. Learn about practical steps that Main Streets can take to prepare for the next disaster here >