By Jenevra Wetmore
Volunteers remove skirting and flood-damaged insulation from homes at the Riverside community. Photos: Jenevra Wetmore. Rebecca Mitchell (l), Martha Giller (center), Wendy Miller (right)
It has been a difficult week for Vermonters. Monday’s flooding destroyed homes, businesses, and property. It left Woodstock (and other Vermont towns) without access to clean drinking water and carved away massive sections of land, tossing boulders and trees across the landscape like children’s toys. The contaminated water flooded gardens, farms and hayfields, ruining crops. In addition to the financial toll of this mess, we are left with the emotional toll of such a massive disaster—as I write Vermont has recorded one death. In the face of these daunting challenges, we are fortunate to have a community ready to rise to the occasion. The past week as Riverside Mobile Home Park is an example of this community spirit.
On Monday afternoon I fully realized the scope of the flooding when the culverts began spilling over and running across my road. I panicked, remembering how Tropical Storm Irene impacted the Riverside Mobile Home Park (Riverside) in 2011, and began calling residents who I have gotten to know well these past few years. I cannot express my relief when I reached a friend there who told me that the park had been evacuated that morning. I do not know everyone who was responsible for that evacuation, but want to express gratitude to park manager Everett Chamberlin for his role in evacuating residents. If he had not done this, people would have likely been in their homes as the Ottauquechee River poured around and underneath them.
A large portion of the park flooded, but the water thankfully did not come up as high as it did in 2011. Water did not reach the homes themselves, but instead poured through the mobile home skirtings. For those who are unfamiliar with the term: mobile home skirting is typically made of vinyl and covers the space between the home and the earth, helping homes retain warmth in the winter and keeping animals out from underneath. As the park flooded, water and mud flowed through and under the skirting. The water then receded, leaving a wet mud sludge under many homes.
Sustainable Woodstock knew that we needed to act as quickly as possible to remove skirting from flooded homes—it is vital to dry out the space under mobiles to prevent mold growth and to check that pipes and electrical lines are still intact under the home. Armed with this knowledge, we put out a call for volunteers on Wednesday evening. Hali Robinson of the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, Village Trustee Seton McIlroy, and Joanne Boyle of North Chapel were instrumental in reaching out to their communities in search of volunteers. Incredibly, with less than 24 hour’s notice, on Thursday morning we had eight volunteers show up at Riverside ready to work. That Thursday we removed skirting from six flooded mobile homes and bagged up wet insulation from under homes to dispose of. Many thanks to volunteers: Donald Jones, Rebecca Mitchell, Cliff Johnson, Chester Marcus, Wendy Miller, Jeremiah Brophy, Martha Giller, and Seton McIlroy.
After putting out a call on social media Thursday night, more Riverside residents responded looking for help with their skirting. We went back on Friday morning and removed skirting from four more homes, making a total of 10 homes. Many thanks to volunteers Rebecca Mitchell, Charles Kahn, Peter McGovern, and Simeon Pol for helping out on Friday.
Moving forward we plan to power wash mud from any mobile homes with cement pads underneath. Those with earth underneath may be more complicated– we are attempting to learn best practices from the Vermont Department of Health, and will continue to work with Riverside residents on replacing their skirting. We are looking to obtain funding, resources and volunteers to accomplish this work so that residents can avoid excess moisture under and in their homes this summer, and stay warm this winter.
Donald Jones (l), Rebecca Mitchell (center), Wendy Miller (right)
What You Can Do:
- If you live in a mobile home that was flooded, remove your skirting or contact Sustainable Woodstock for assistance
- Visit https://uvstrong.org/ to donate to the flood response or register to volunteer in the Upper Valley