Examining Resilience in Vermont After Hurricane Irene

Earlier this year, APA's Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division, in cooperation with Texas A&M University, sponsored a paper contest for students in urban planning programs across the country. Each report was required to focus on some aspect of natural hazards and planning, and numerous papers were submitted by students in graduate planning schools across the U.S.

At a joint reception of the division and the Sustainable Communities Division on May 8, 2017, at APA's National Planning Conference in New York City, the winner received a $2,500 prize.

The below post originally appeared on the personal blog of Jim Schwab, FAICP, who recently retired from APA as the manager of the Hazards Planning Center.

To my surprise and great pleasure, the winner of this first-ever contest was one of my own students, from a course I teach at the University of Iowa School of Urban & Regional Planning. Emily Seiple, of Mahomet, Illinois, was in my Fall 2016 class, “Planning for Disaster Mitigation and Recovery.”

She was one of three students who sought my endorsement to submit their papers, but there were undoubtedly dozens of others, if not hundreds, from other schools. I have not inquired as to the total submitted.

Emily’s paper is very deserving of the recognition she has now received. In her paper, written as an assignment for my class, she expertly dissected the dynamics of a challenging recovery situation for the town of Waterbury, Vermont, following Hurricane Irene in the fall of 2011.

Many readers may recall seeing television footage of glutted streams rushing downhill from the mountains, inundating one Vermont community after another. The flood itself was but the prelude, however, for then followed the arduous work of organizing recovery committees, managing recovery funds, working with state and federal agencies, and finding and implementing the silver lining in an otherwise bleak situation.

Resilience involves a community’s ability both to respond well to such challenges and to build back better and stronger.

Emily examined that story with a remarkably clear and perceptive eye to both details and the big picture, as you will learn by reading her paper. I present it because I believe her paper will allow readers to gain a greater understanding of the many nuances involved in disaster recovery planning, which has never been a simple subject.

Top image: Houses were severely damaged after Hurricane Irene came through Bethel, Vermont, on August 28, 2011. Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

About the Author
James C. Schwab, FAICP, is former manager of APA’s Hazards Planning Center. This post is reprinted with permission from jimschwab.com.

June 5, 2017

By James Schwab, FAICP