W hile most officials have agreed that Whitehall lucked out and avoided the worst of tropical storm Irene, one local couple wasn’t so fortunate.
Tom and Heidi Rock lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment when their business, located in center Rutland, Vt., was inundated with flood waters.
The couple owns and operates Rock Landscaping and Property Management, a business that specializes in all facets of landscaping and property management. Tom Rock was worked at the business for 15 years and has owned it for the past three years.
Although the company does much of its business in the Killington area just north of the city, most of their equipment is stored in a garage they own in Rutland. That garage took on several feet of water during Sunday’s storm.
Rock said she was told by a neighboring business owner that at one point Sunday evening, the water level in the area near their garage surged from several inches to more than five feet in 20 minutes.
“It’s unbelievable what happened. There’s just so much (destruction) to take in. The devastation is incredible” she said. “You can’t even wrap you head around it. You can’t understand how water can take everything in a moment’s time. It’s a different type of loss because you can still see it. When you have a house fire and it burns down you can see it’s gone.”
The water got so high that it reached the windshield of several of the couple’s trucks while other equipment sat completely submerged, saturating seats and filling up gas lines and oil pans with chocolate colored water.
Rock said they are still trying to determine the extent of the damage. She said they lost power tools, weed whackers, some of their trucks and other equipment.
They didn’t have insurance on much of the equipment.
“You name it, we lost it,” she said. “I can’t even tell you the thousands of dollars of equipment we lost. The vehicles are going to have the biggest toll.”
The couple managed to dry out some of the equipment and send it out to repair shops where it was drained and it appears some the equipment is salvageable, but not all.
“We’re just waiting to see what they are going to say about some of the equipment. Our family vehicle is gone and we have five kids so they don’t fit in a Honda Civic as well,” Rock joked, displaying a little humor in light of the hard times the family is facing.
The garage itself didn’t suffer any damage although flood waters deposited as much as an inch of diesel-laden slimy, brown clay all over the floor and walls.
Rock said the extent of devastation in and around Rutland was shocking. She said her and her husband were expecting a lot of rain and maybe some minimal flooding but nothing like what actually occurred.
She said her kids were in the yard of their Boardman Street home playing in the rain during the storm, completely unaware of the severe conditions less than 30 minutes away.
“My and husband and I knew we were supposed to get a lot of rain but you never think in a million years we’d get hit by something like this. We never imagined Rutland was going to get hit like this.”
She said she tried to travel to Rutland around 5 p.m. Sunday but wasn’t able to access the city.
Meanwhile her husband and one of his employees were in Killington trying to divert water from some of their clients’ homes (an effort that saved at least one home, Rock said). They tried to get back to Rutland but soon discovered they were trapped after a torrent of water washed away part of Route 4.
So without the aid of flashlights, they hiked down the mountain in a driving rain, a trip they have repeated several times in the days since Irene as they try to help their clients repair their homes and return to some state of normalcy.
The one positive to come from the flooding, is the outpouring of assistance from complete strangers.
“Lots of people have offered help, people you’d least expect have come out and helped us,” Rock said.
The couple remains surprisingly upbeat and seems focused on their daily routines in spite of everything that has happened.
“He just gets up every morning, puts his boats on and goes to work,” Rock said. “The work has to be done.”