On a recent weekend getaway to southern Vermont, I wasn’t sure what to expect while driving to Jamaica. The town was among the hardest hit by Tropical Storm Irene, which destroyed homes and washed out roads in Vermont on Aug. 28, 2011.
As I drove south on Route 30 and approached Jamaica, I held my breath. It had been more than a year since I visited this tiny hamlet of 950 residents, and I wasn’t sure what to expect 12 months after Irene. But much to my delight, the town looks almost exactly as I had remembered.
On the north side of the town, the path of Irene’s destruction is evident along Route 30. Still, in the heart of the village, Jamaica appears very much the same. I was happy to see the town’s familiar buildings and businesses: the Jamaica Coffee House, the Jamaica Community Church, the Three Mountain Inn and the town hall.
Jennifer Dorta-Duque, who owns the Three Mountain Inn with her husband, Ed, says there are constant reminders of what happened one year ago. While some things will never be the same for Jamaica residents, she says guests and visitors are always impressed by the town’s remarkable recovery.
“I think it’s a general feeling that Vermont really picked itself back up and is the same wonderful place that it has always been,” she said. “Guests mention how everything is the same, and they say that with admiration of what has been accomplished.”
Those accomplishments in Jamaica were made possible by friends, neighbors and acquaintances who reached out to help one another after the storm.
“I think that one thing we find so special about the community is that no one stops anyone from being who they are, and no one feels the need to change someone,” she says. “We all appreciate our little community, and we all support each other.”