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Telling Irene Stories: On Page and Screen 

State of the Arts

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How do we remember disasters like Tropical Storm Irene? We pass along striking images; we tell stories. So it’s no surprise that the floods’ aftermath brought a bumper crop of commemorative books. All are small-scale local productions, and most are labors of love with profits going to flood-related charities.

Three books zero in on the travails of a particular community or communities sharing a watershed. Northfield photographer Jeanne Weston Cook chronicled the experiences of Northfield and Roxbury residents in her self-published book of photo essays, Voices From the Flood.

David Goodman brought his journalistic expertise to editing When the River Rose, which tells the story of Waterbury during and after Irene in first-person accounts and photos. The voices are lively and diverse, ranging from the town fire chief and municipal manager to a third grader recalling his family’s evacuation.

Farther south, the definitive record of Irene’s devastation of the White River watershed is The Wrath of Irene, a 200-plus-page compilation of coverage from the Herald of Randolph. It’s published by the Public Press, owned by Stephen Morris of Bethel, who happened to be serving as the Herald’s substitute editor during the storm. Morris co-edited the book with his wife, Sandy Levesque, who was Bethel’s initial emergency volunteer coordinator.

Besides Herald material, the couple collected dramatic photographs from locals, notably Barb Wood of Pittsfield. Since releasing the book in January, Morris says, they’ve sold about 4000 copies — some at bookstores, others at “nontraditional retailers like hardware stores, general stores, restaurants and garden centers.”

Part-time Rutland resident and Green Mountain Writers Conference director Yvonne Daley takes a broad approach to the disaster in her A Mighty Storm: Stories of Resilience After Irene.

But wait! Flooding from Irene didn’t devastate just Vermont. Published in June, Good Night Irene contains stories and photos from all three affected states. Vermont Standard publisher Phillip Camp contributed an introduction.

Some of these books’ gripping Irene stories play out on screen in Flood Bound, a powerful hourlong documentary from Marion Abrams that screens on Vermont Public Television this week. When the storm hit, the Pittsfield filmmaker was trapped along with the rest of her village, and her camera offers revealing glimpses of a community severed from the outside world. In interviews, Pittsfielders recall letting go of grudges and getting hugs from strangers as they pulled together to repair the damage and endure. Call it a reverse Lord of the Flies.

Among those who weathered Irene were survivors of the Great Flood of 1927. Also on VPT this week is a short film that evokes an old-timer’s memories of that disaster through animation. The moving vignette, “Mad River Rising,” was directed by Daniel Houghton and animated by his students at Middlebury College; the story comes from playwright Dana Yeaton.

Good Night Irene: Stories and Photos About the Tropical Storm That Devastated Vermont, the Catskills and the Berkshires by Craig Brandon and Nicole Garman, Michael Ryan, Surry Cottage Books, 312 pages. $24.95.

A Mighty Storm: Stories of Resilience After Irene by Yvonne Daley, Shires Press, 158 pages. $34.95. Beneficiaries: the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund, the Mobile Home Project Fund and the Rutland Relief Fund.

Voices From the Flood by Jeanne Weston Cook, 84 pages. $14.95. Beneficiary: Northfield Community Emergency Relief Volunteers. Available through the Northfield Historical Society.

When the River Rose: Stories of a Vermont Town’s Flood, Recovery, and Rebirth, edited by David Goodman, photographs by Gordon Miller, Children’s Literacy Foundation, 52 pages. $20. Beneficiary: ReBuild Waterbury.

The Wrath of Irene: Vermont’s Imperfect Storm of 2011, by the staff of the Herald of Randolph, edited by Sandy Levesque and Stephen Morris, Public Press, 220 pages. $24.95 (black-and-white edition) or $39.95 (color). Beneficiary: Irene Relief Fund of the Central Vermont Community Action Council.

Flood Bound, directed by Marion Abrams. Saturday, August 25, 4 p.m. on Vermont Public Television; Sunday, August 26, 6 p.m. at the Pittsfield Federated Church; and Tuesday, August 28, 2 p.m. at the Sherburne Memorial Library in Killington. For information on buying DVDs, see

“Mad River Rising,” directed by Daniel Houghton, will air on VPT on Thursday, August 23, 10 p.m.; Friday, August 24, 10:30 p.m.; and Saturday, August 25, 11:30 p.m. Or watch it at

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More by Margot Harrison

About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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