HARTFORD, Vt. -
It's been more than a week since heavy rains washed out roads, flooded buildings and caused a section of Vermont railroad track to crumble. A couple in Hartford is still trying to pick up the pieces.
When strong storms rolled through the region at the beginning of July, 800 feet of track in Hartford was compromised, temporarily shutting down the railroad. The trains are once again rolling down the track but for businesses below the embankment, it's anything but normal.
"You know right now, without even figuring, we are probably out $600,000," property owner Chuck Gordon said.
Gordon has owned this property since 2009. But, looking forward, the future is up in the air. July 1, the embankment behind his property, which is owned by New England Central Railroad, gave way.
"Their wall, their bank that collapsed into my building," Gordon said.
The damage left behind is unavoidable. The building houses several businesses including a hair salon. Thick mud now cakes the floors and the structure is no longer sound. A passing Amtrak train is a daily reminder that some things are back on track. But now, you can see it roll by through a gaping hole in the back of the building. The Gordons are working with the company that owns the railroad for possible compensation but they say they are making little progress. New England Central Railroad sent us a statement after this story was broadcast on the evening news, saying, "NECR considers this rain event as an Act of God for which it bears no responsibility."
According to VTrans officials, in some past cases where private property has been damaged during a natural disaster, railroad companies have not been found liable. To make matters worse, the Gordons say their own insurance company has already denied their claim.
"It all boils down to that it is earth movement and they won't give us a dime for equipment, the building, lost wages or lost money coming in," Gordon said.
State officials, including Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, have toured the damage.
"It is going to be a complex process to get them back up and running," Vt. Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle said.
Kurrle said in disasters like this one, a regional economic development office is a good place to turn for support.
"Businesses employ Vermonters, so for me, it is important that we can minimize business disruption so that Vermonters are working," Kurrle said.
"It is heartbreaking when you are having to do it over again. Especially when you are getting older, you are starting to get more toward retirement than having to start over again," Alicia Gordon said.
The Gordons told us that despite their financial uncertainty, they are grateful for the support that they have received at the state level and for the fact that no one was hurt.
White River Junction — Vermont emergency management officials on Thursday requested a federal tally of damage from this weekend’s storm, making a step toward receiving disaster aid as the state’s own count soared into the millions.
“More than $2 million in damage to public infrastructure has been verified by the state, and the cost of still more damage is yet to be officially tallied,” according to a Thursday afternoon news release from Vermont Emergency Management.
Vermont officials have been meeting with local leaders in Thetford, Norwich and other towns west of the Connecticut River that were rocked by a chain of thunderstorm cells on Saturday and are still working to restore full road access.
FEMA will use Vermont’s damage estimates to help determine whether or not the state qualifies for federal aid. To qualify for a public assistance disaster declaration under the federal Stafford Act, Vermont has to demonstrate it incurred at least $1 million in eligible costs at a rate of $3.61 per capita in each affected county, the news release said.
Should those thresholds be met, Gov. Phil Scott may forward a request for a disaster declaration to FEMA, which may ask President Donald Trump to sign an order releasing funds.
Communities then would receive a 75 percent reimbursement for response and recovery costs, including repairs to local roads, public buildings and other municipal assets.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire authorities say damage from the weekend flooding could top $12 million.
“The initial damage assessments provided by local officials indicate an excess of $11.5 million in damages with a vast majority of the damage occurring in Grafton County,” New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Perry Plummer said in a statement on Thursday evening. “We fully expect to meet the thresholds and justifications required to ask the governor to request a presidential disaster declaration.”
The owners of homes or businesses that sustained damage should call 2-1-1 and report the damage, Plummer said. Volunteer assistance or other assistance may be available, he said.
Those calling from close to the Vermont border should call the 2-1-1 New Hampshire direct line at 1-866-444-4211, he said.
FEMA to Assess Storm Damage in six Vermont Counties
By: Kristin Frechette
Updated: Jul 11, 2017
Waterbury, Vt. - Six Vermont Counties will be assessed for storm damage starting on Wednesday.
According to a media release, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it will tour Bennington, Addison, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland and Windsor counties.
Officials say after recent rain storms and flooding from June 29 through July 1, the state of Vermont has identified more than six million dollars in public infrastructure damage.
According to officials, if FEMA determines the damage qualifies for federal funding, Governor Phil Scott will submit a formal request for a declaration to President Trump.If the president signs the declaration, officials say the communities would be eligible for 75% reimbursement for response and recovery costs