When you think of autumn in New England, scenic tree-lined roadways, picturesque covered bridges and busy downtown local shops all come to mind. You don’t picture the beast. A tropical storm weeks ahead of the peak tourist season, leading to devastating flooding, washed out roadways and historic bridges and houses swept away.
Weeks later, people are still picking up the pieces in areas near Woodstock, VT. The local newspaper has been displaced, businesses shuttered, and bridges crumpled by the destruction Irene brought to this normally tranquil town.
“A lot of people had some serious flooding in their homes, some people lost their homes,” says Philip Swanson, Woodstock, VT Town Manager. Everywhere you look, construction trucks are the new norm on the streets. Swanson is concerned that news of the damage may impact tourism in the area, which is considered to be one of the top ten foliage destinations. “The tourist season is very important to Woodstock and to Vermont. It is our busiest season. Only a few weeks long,” Swanson says.
The fall foliage season in Vermont, brings in about 300 million dollars each year. But with many shops and roadways still damaged from Irene, communities here are hustling to repair and rebuild just in time for the peak tourist season.
“It's been a very tough time for the community,” states Courtney Lowe, the director of sales and marketing of the Woodstock Inn and Resort. The resort, with 142 guest rooms is the biggest place to stay in town. Lowe says they’ve had to close their doors since Irene, cancelling reservations, conferences and even rescheduling a number of weddings. This town depends on the fall tourist season. “Oh, it is our biggest season pretty much in the town of Woodstock, especially for the Woodstock Inn. It’s our biggest occupancy time period and of course all the stores and shops around here benefit from that tremendously,” says Lowe.
Hopes are high and people are preparing for the hundreds of thousands of people to arrive in this quintessential New England town. “As a tourist town and so forth we are going to be ready to roll. I think October is going to feel relatively normal,” says Lowe. Despite the destruction that Irene brought to the area, there is still something beautiful to look forward to. “The beauty of the storm…the negative was we had flooding, the beauty was we didn’t have the wind. So the trees that were affected were by river side, some trees that fell in, but for most of the forest, everything is in tact,” says Lowe.
Irene didn’t bring much wind to Vermont, so the landscape is still filled with trees that went untouched. Since reports of the soil moisture is good, and the trees are healthy, the cooler nights are predicted to bring out full color for maximum foliage potential this season.
“We are excited that we think that all reports we heard it is supposed to be a pretty spectacular fall, so we are looking forward to it,” says Lowe.
For the latest information on Vermont road conditions and current closures or restrictions from Tropical Storm Irene please visit: http://www.511vt.com/