Story: Red Cross Reaches Out to Aid Vermont Flood Family

Check out local volunteer, Lori Delain, of Casco and 19 year Red Cross Disaster Volunteer, doing great work while on her recent deployment to Vermont. Great Job Lori! We are so proud of you!  

This story was written by Red Cross volunteer Allen Crabtree.

Red Cross client case worker Lori Delain interviews Joe and Detra Mailhiot during an outreach visit to Mailhiot’s home damaged in flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.

Vermont was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene, with hundreds of roads and bridges washed away and homes and whole communities inundated by flood waters. Many homes were isolated by the storm, and the American Red Cross has mounted an aggressive outreach effort to contact them and provide emergency disaster relief. One family visited by a Red Cross client services outreach team was Joe and Detra Mailhot who live on the side of Brandon Mountain on Vermont Route 73, a road completely washed away near Rochester, Vermont.

“I had gotten home from work on the night shift and was lying down to rest,” recounted Detra, standing in the dooryard of what was left of their home. “My husband Joe had been watching the water rise in the brook up the mountain and when it washed out the culvert and all the water started rushing down the road toward the house he yelled to me and our son William ‘get out of the house – now!’” The Mailhot family jumped into waist-deep flood waters and was able to escape down the mountain to safety. The flood waters undermined their house and collapsed part of it, leaving the rest at a crazy angle against the side of the mountain.

Vermont Route 73 and key bridges were washed out west and east of their home, and it was only when a temporary bridge was installed across the West Branch of Brandon Brook west of their home several days later was it possible to reach there by car from any direction.

Scott Stevens, a Work Crew Supervisor with the Vermont Department of Corrections, heard about the Mailhot family’s plight and notified the Red Cross disaster relief operation in Rutland. Together with a crew and tools to work on the house and a generator, the Red Cross sent Client Services Caseworker Lori Delain and Health Services RN Jan Dayton to make an outreach visit to the family. Red Cross bulk distribution supplies, including clean up kits, cots and blankets, drinking water and food were also brought to the Mailhots.

“Joe and I have been together 31 years and we’ve lived here three years,” said Detra. “Joe built this home with his own hands, and this is our home. We’re not leaving,” she emphasized. “Besides, we’re the lucky ones – we’re still alive, we’ve got each other, and we can fix this place up so it is livable again.”

She told how they had just had a new water well drilled only a week before the storm and had just gotten in their winter’s supply of firewood. “All ten cords that we cut and split are gone, washed down the valley,” said her son William. “And the well is ruined too with all our firewood plus the rocks and mud washed into it from up the valley.”

While Stevens’ work crew helped Joe and neighbors work on stabilizing and leveling the house, Red Cross client case worker Lori Delain interviewed the Mailhot family and opened a case file, and filled out referral forms to help the family get additional assistance from other relief agencies in Vermont. Red Cross health worker RN Jan Dayton checked on the family’s prescription medication needs.

As the Red Cross outreach team left the Mailhot family, Joe broke down and cried. “I’ve worked hard all my life and have never asked anyone for anything,” he sobbed. “This is overwhelming. I can’t thank the Red Cross enough for everything they’ve done here.”

“The Red Cross has had to be very aggressive and innovative to reach out to families like the Mailhots,” said Delain. “Many are isolated and widely separated in the valleys and hills from one end of Vermont to the other. We want to reach out to all of them, to assist them with emergency relief and to help steer them to our partner and community agencies that can also assist them following the floods.” The Red Cross outreach effort will continue until all the Vermont homes and communities affected by Tropical Storm Irene have been visited.

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