ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – One year after Tropical Storm Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the State of Vermont and local communities continue to support recovery of Vermont’s Irene-battered covered bridges.
“The devastation to so many of Vermont’s covered bridges, which are such important remnants of the past, is heart-wrenching,” said FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Steve Ward. “FEMA is honored to be involved in the process of restoring eligible covered bridges to as close to their pre-storm conditions as possible.”
FEMA will cover 90 percent of eligible recovery costs for qualifying bridge projects. Under the federal Public Assistance cost-share program, storm-impacted towns will fund five percent of the nonfederal share of recovery costs; as part of Vermont’s Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund, the state of Vermont will contribute five percent.
After nearly one year since Irene, some of Vermont’s storm-ravaged portals to the past have reopened, and many are scheduled to reopen.
Bowers Bridge, Brownsville
On Saturday, August 4, a celebratory crowd gathered at Bible Hill Road on Mill Brook in West Windsor. The group watched as a reconstructed Bowers Bridge, a beloved local relic, reclaimed the spot it had occupied for 92 years before Tropical Storm Irene.
During the storm, Irene-powered flood waters thrashed hay bales against the wall of the single-lane timber truss bridge, uprooting it from its historical location and washing it about 150 yards downstream to where it came to rest in a field. Rushing water eroded the south abutment of the bridge, including the foundation base.
Built 45-feet-long in 1919, Bowers Bridge is an example of English engineering known as tied arch construction. The technique involves butting two low, wooden arches, one on either side of the bridge. Steel rods drilled through the arches support the bridge’s roadbed.
To view a FEMA video about the Bowers Bridge, visit: http://home.fema.gov/medialibrary/media_records/7006.
Brown Covered Bridge, Shrewsbury
Irene caused a high velocity flow of the Cold River in Shrewsbury, where the Brown Covered Bridge had carried Upper Cold River Road traffic over the river since 1880. River overflow caused extreme erosion to the bridge’s 131-year old cedar plank siding.
A FEMA video titled “It is Our Bridge” tells the bridge’s story, including first-hand accounts from residents like Shrewsbury’s Department of Emergency Management Director Irene Gordon.
“I was impressed with the background and knowledge of the FEMA people that came here,” Gordon said. “The engineer was quite knowledgeable and very thorough in her investigation. She made sure she saw everything that needed to be seen – even crawling under the bridge to make sure she knew what the abutments were, what different materials would be needed and what needed to be done to restore the bridge to its pre-storm condition.”
To view “It is Our Bridge,” visit: http://twzr.info/medialibrary/media_records/7486.
Bartonsville Bridge, Rockingham
Reconstruction of Bartonsville Bridge is expected to continue into November. Fast flood waters of the Williams River during Tropical Storm Irene clobbered the Bartonsville Bridge, which was once one of the world’s oldest and longest.
The lattice-style bridge was built 15-feet-wide and 157-feet-long in 1870 to carry Pleasant Valley Road over the Williams River. It was one of the longest town lattice-style covered bridges in Vermont before Tropical Storm Irene.
To raise funds to help cover some of the recovery costs, the town of Rockingham will host a barbecue at the site where Bartonsville Bridge stood before Irene. The event, which will be held on August 28, will also mark the one-year anniversary of the storm.
To learn more about the Bartonsville Bridge fundraiser and other Tropical Storm Irene anniversary events, visit: http://www.vermontdisasterrecovery.com/events/ireneanniversary.
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