“Scar tissue” from Irene yet to heal, Wilmington waits on Sandy

By Kevin O’Connor | STAFF WRITER
WILMINGTON — Most of the 1,876 residents here in the Vermont town hit hardest by Tropical Storm Irene — still rebuilding a year after more than $13 million in ruin — weren’t happy to hear about this week’s arrival of Hurricane Sandy. But local bookseller Lisa Sullivan hopes the latest squall is just another chapter in a larger story of resilience.
Sullivan can tell you how she was inside Bartleby’s Books Aug. 28, 2011, when the nearby Deerfield River, normally 2 feet deep, swelled to more than 25 feet in a matter of hours — washing away her business just four months after fire destroyed its sister Book Cellar store in Brattleboro.
But Sullivan can also recount how, surviving hell and high water, she and her husband and supporters repaired her Wilmington storefront in time to reopen for holiday shopping last Black Friday, when the shop rebounded with its two single largest sales days ever.
Harnessing such spirit, downtown Wilmington opened for business Monday, even as electricity sputtered on and off and construction crews hammered away at neighboring landmarks such as Dot’s, a still-decimated diner deemed “a national treasure” by Gourmet magazine.At the white-clapboard Town Hall where black paint marks “2011 flood level” at a height that would swallow most people, employees were monitoring the weather while moving fire and highway trucks onto both sides of the town-dividing river.
“There’s a lot of psychological scar tissue from Irene,” Town Manager Scott Murphy said. “But we’re hopeful the latest forecasts of less chance of flooding are accurate.”
That didn’t stop Town Clerk Susie Haughwout and Assistant Town Clerk Pat Johnson from removing records from a vault that filled with nearly four feet of floodwater last year.
“We just can’t take any chances,” Haughwout said.
“Everyone’s a little gun-shy,” Johnson said.
Locals were also well armed. Bartleby’s Books, which saw 4 feet of Irene overflow swallow up nearly $300,000 in stock and surroundings, benefited from the fact that Sullivan’s husband, carpenter Phil Taylor, rebuilt the shop — a 175-year-old Route 9 carriage house — with stronger doors and windows.
“We’re not moving anything right now,” store manager Ana McDaniel said. “But if we need to give the word, there will be more help than anyone can imagine.”
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