The Nation and the World

How one Vermont business bounced back from the “Great Vermont Flood” in only 11 days

This summer, many areas of Vermont flooded. The White Cottage Snack Bar, a town and family staple, had to shut down for almost two weeks in the middle of the summer but managed to rebuild in that time. 

For the White Cottage in Woodstock Vermont, the waters rushed in during the peak of their season. “We’re only open from May to October. So to lose eleven days, it’s definitely had a big impact on the value of this season,” said the White Cottage’s owner, John Ferley. 

Originally, the staff at the White Cottage had thought that, due to the location of the building, the floods would not have done much damage on the building. The biggest impact was because of a log, carried by the flood waters, which had bursted through one of their double doors. This caused unusual flooding throughout the building. Instead of the water slowly flooding the foundation, the doors burst open and water rushed in, forcing a majority of their furniture out of the building and damaging some of the freezers. 

As the water receded back into the river, it was necessary to focus on the structure and the foundation of the building that had been destroyed by the water. “We ripped down all the wainscoting (on the walls), took out the insulation, sanitized everything, and we were back open for business,” Ferley explained. When dining at the White Cottage, patrons are able to see the temporary lining surrounding the inside of every wall in the building. After the season closes, the White Cottage has plans to rebuild this part of their walls entirely. 

But, the quick rebuild wasn’t just due to this year’s staff and management. This July’s flood wasn’t their first rodeo. Twelve years ago, the White Cottage’s original building was destroyed by hurricane Irene. “If we hadn’t taken such precautionary measures after Irene, we would’ve probably been out for the rest of the season,” said Ferley when asked about how the building was able to withstand the high, rushing waters. The original setup, pre-Irene, consisted of all outdoor seating. 

After Irene, they added indoor seating space and patrons could choose if they wanted to sit inside or out. While eighty-percent of the seating was lost floating down the river, there were still numerous booths and tables that stayed inside the building. This made it easier to set up the seating areas again once the staff was able to recover the majority of the furniture. Not only was the seating improved, but also the building was relocated to a safer place on the bank of the river. After being moved twenty feet further from the river, raised above street level, and twenty inches higher than the old foundation, the new building was much better equipped to fight the flooding.

The final major concern that arises from this summer’s flooding was the increased likelihood of future flooding. One of the employees, who is a student at Woodstock Union High School, just a half-mile down the road from the White Cottage, expects more flooding in the future. “Oh one-hundred-percent, even in school, we’ve talked about this problem. It’s really because of all the rain that we get now due to climate change. Because the ground is so wet now, even one storm, like the one we had this summer, can cause major flooding and damage.”

Image source:

Shelly Kidd-Thomas 

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