Colchester, Vt. – In the northern tier of Vermont close to the Canadian border, the rural town of Montgomery is home to one of Vermont’s treasures. The Fuller Covered Bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the town’s six remaining covered bridges out of an original thirteen. Brothers Savannah and Sheldon Jewett built the covered bridge in the later half of the 1800’s.
These covered bridges are an important part of Vermont culture and history. Tourists attracted to the bridges help support many local businesses in the Montgomery community, with a population just shy of 1,000.
In early July 1997, heavy rains deluged the town of Montgomery. Water levels in the town’s rivers and tributaries rose at a rapid rate. Debris from fallen trees and other objects accumulated in the rising waters exacerbating the problem. Riverbanks swelled to capacity and began to overflow. Water carrying mud and debris swept down Main Street causing damage along its path. Homes along the river were washed away; a motel along the riverbank was lost; and the town hall and local church sustained significant damage. The fast moving floodwaters and debris caused significant damage to the Fuller Covered Bridge. Access to town was restricted to a single road due to damage to several bridges.
The President declared a Disaster, making Federal Individual and Public Assistance monies available. Public Assistance covers the repair of damaged public facilities such as roads and bridges.
The town was faced with a decision – whether to rebuild, restore, dismantle and/or install a modern replacement bridge. The town chose to rebuild.
A preservation specialist was brought in to help. Soon after, the bridge was removed and hauled to another location for restoration and repairs and a temporary bridge was installed at the site. During the repair phase the stone abutments were refaced with concrete, reducing their future vulnerability to debris such as trees, wood, and other floating objects carried by floodwaters. In August 2000, following completion of the restoration work, the Fuller Covered Bridge was returned to the repaired abutments.
This past August and September, residents of Montgomery watched as a series of severe storms deluged their town once again. The results of Montgomery’s mitigation efforts were a success. The Fuller Covered Bridge remained intact, as did the other repaired structures from the ‘97 storm.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.