Irene may have been downgraded to a “tropical storm,” but she hit us harder than you might think. She had the broadest impact on our electric services of any weather event ever, and there are towns in western Massachusetts where the runoff was so fierce it washed away roads, cutting off access entirely. Acres of crops were destroyed just before the harvest.
I visited a trailer community in Williamstown yesterday whose 300 retirees have been displaced. Considering the effects in Vermont, western New York, or even Connecticut, Massachusetts overall fared better. But for many of our neighbors — maybe you — Irene was devastating.
Once again, our emergency responders have stepped up. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has coordinated the preparation and response exceptionally well, prepositioning people and equipment in advance of the storm according to the changing forecast.
The National Guard and State Police, together with MassDOT, DCR, and all of the human services agencies, have worked closely together to help us recover. Almost all the lights are back on now, miles of roads and numbers of bridges that were damaged have been repaired, and we are steadily getting back to normal. We have more to do, but we are getting there.
And an awful lot of you are helping. Just as after the tornadoes in June, people have shown such grace and support for their neighbors across the Commonwealth. I asked people in advance of the storm and immediately afterwards to check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbors, and they did so in important and helpful ways. They continue to do so. It matters. Thank you.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth is ready to help rebuild and recover from the destruction. For information about available recovery resources or to request other non-emergency assistance, call 2-1-1. The 2-1-1 non-emergency line is the fastest and easiest way to get official recovery information and resources. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, MEMA is assessing the damage to determine our eligibility for federal disaster assistance. I will let you know soon if that kind of help is also available.
Keep the faith.