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How a ski town in Vermont is grappling with the aftermath of flooding

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Communities all over Vermont are cleaning up after a week of heavy rain and flooding, rain that continued last night. One of the places hardest hit is Ludlow, a ski town in the southern part of the state. Vermont Public's Nina Keck takes us there.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

NINA KECK, BYLINE: Dump trucks and heavy equipment stir up a hazy layer of dust in Ludlow clearing the roads. The wet sludge that covered much of the downtown has begun to dry. Orion Jones stands near the back door of the Main and Mountain Motel.

ORION JONES: Yesterday we were just focused on pretty much getting all the water out of the basement. We moved out a bunch of washer, dryers, a bunch of appliances. A lot of lifting (laughter).

KECK: Jones is from Lancaster, Pa., and was visiting. He couldn't leave, so decided to help clean up.

JONES: I think you might get a little wet.

KECK: Yeah.

JONES: It's still - there's still some water down there.

KECK: He shows me where they've been working.

Oh, wow. You get that flooded basement smell right away.

JONES: Oh, my God. Yeah, and absolutely. And this pump right here, it's been going for the last 24 hours.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOVELING)

KECK: Across the street at the Homestyle Hotel, Abby Childs and several others are shoveling silt out of a back room.

ABBY CHILDS: Be careful. It's really slippery. You can see the water line here.

KECK: That's the water line.

CHILDS: Yes. And it's even higher in this room.

KECK: That's, like, almost up to your armpit.

CHILDS: Yes. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOVELING)

KECK: How many buckets would you say you guys have emptied?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Fifty?

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

KECK: We head outside and step around piles of mud. The building is just feet from the Black River. Now it's a muddy brown. Abby Childs' home wasn't impacted by the flooding. She feels lucky.

CHILDS: I couldn't imagine spending a day any different. I had to come over here 'cause the destruction is unfathomable.

CRAIG GOODMAN: Well, like I said, if you need anything, let me know.

KECK: Down the street, Craig Goodman stands in the parking lot of his pizzeria, chatting with a neighbor in a pickup.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: All right.

GOODMAN: I'll help as much I can.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: All right. Later.

GOODMAN: Thank you.

KECK: In 2011, Goodman lost his business in Tropical Storm Irene. He was luckier this time. His restaurant is still standing, and he's giving back with free pizza for anyone helping with the cleanup.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Thank you for doing that.

GOODMAN: Oh, thank you for coming down.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Oh, my God. Well, we would have been here sooner...

GOODMAN: How are you guys doing?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: ...But on Pleasant Street now there's a fire.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Thank you so much.

GOODMAN: You're very welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Hi there.

KECK: For a few hours, Goodman's pizzeria becomes an oasis where tired and muddy neighbors share stories, compare damage, and reassure each other that things will get better.

GOODMAN: Thank you guys for coming down.

SUSAN MORDECAI: Absolutely.

KECK: Susan Mordecai and Mitch Rae live in nearby Plymouth and took a lunch break together.

MORDECAI: Everybody's helping one another. Arms are out there. Arms are open wide, holding everyone. Yeah, that's what it is. That's what we do. Brave little state.

MITCH RAE: We're accustomed to not having access to a lot of the luxuries of big cities and bigger towns, so we just really have to fall on neighborly love.

MORDECAI: A few weeks ago, I, like many other people, were a little bit heartbroken, thinking, what are we doing? Where are we going? As a world, as a community, are we taking care of one another? It seemed like at a time when we weren't. But when this came around, I'm like, no, we are taking care of one another.

KECK: Inside his pizzeria, Craig Goodman has a bucket and a Venmo account for donations. He's already received more than $20,000. It's more than he expected. But at the same time, he's not surprised his community is coming through. For NPR News, I'm Nina Keck in Chittenden, Vt.

(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS HELLER'S "DARK MATTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Nina has been reporting for VPR since 1996, primarily focusing on the Rutland area. An experienced journalist, Nina covered international and national news for seven years with the Voice of America, working in Washington, D.C., and Germany. While in Germany, she also worked as a stringer for Marketplace. Nina has been honored with two national Edward R. Murrow Awards: In 2006, she won for her investigative reporting on VPR and in 2009 she won for her use of sound. She began her career at Wisconsin Public Radio.