So often, Vermonters and others in the Northeast are treated to a week or more of tense warnings from meteorlogists on the Weather Channel and local TV and radio stations, whenever a major storm heads our way. Usually, the reality is pretty tame by the time what was a hurricane in the Carribean reaches these parts.
And Tropical Storm Irene fit that bill perfectly, especially after it was "downgraded" to tropical storm status from a major hurricane prior to its arrival in New York City and southern New England. Then, very slowly, all hell broke loose everywhere there was a river or stream with low-lying, populated areas nearby.
The rain just kept coming down and the rivers just kept rising -- the Roaring Branch, the Walloomsac, the Batten Kill, the Hoosic and the Deerfield in our area -- and down came incalculable tons of raging water and debris. In some cases houses, cars and businesses were swept along as well.
Roads and bridges were even more directly affected, as some 500 miles of Vermont roads were damaged or made impassable and 200 bridges closed or destroyed by the flooding.
In fact, the feared winds, which were expected to throw everyone into the dark because of downed power lines, never became severe in this area. That might have been why anyone surveying the damage the night of August 28, 2011 -- and especially the following morning -- was likely to be shocked.
But beyond the image of raging waters and horrendous damage throughout the state and well beyond, the strength and quiet determination of Vermonters to carry on and work together to get themselves and their neighbors back to normal -- or to a new normal, sometimes better than before the storm -- is what will endure through history.
Irene has taken its place alongside the hurricanes of 1927 and 1938 in Vermont, but the phrase "Vermont Strong" will go down in history as well. It proved incredibly concise and accurate. And it refers to the residents more than the battered landscape itself.