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After repeated flooding, this Vermont family is cleaning up their home and plans to stay

 Two people stand in front of a blue ranch-style house. By their entryway there are many plants, gallon jugs of water and an American flag.
Anna Van Dine
For Vermont Public
Ashlee Place and her husband Josh in front of their home on Route 2 in Waterbury. The couple, who are in their early 40s, are raising seven children.

Some of the homes that were hit by Tropical Storm Irene a dozen years ago saw flooding again this past week.

On Thursday, Anna Van Dine talked with Ashlee Place, who’s cleaning up her home on Route 2 in Waterbury, near Farr’s Field.

We highly recommend you listen to this story, but a transcript is included below.

Ashlee Place: So this is what the inside of our house looked like.

Anna Van Dine: Wow.

Ashlee Place: And this was like — this side yard here, this was like a river.

Anna Van Dine: It is all river.

Ashlee Place: And it's just crazy. We had a swimming pool and a trampoline in our backyard, we don't even know where they are.

A photo of a room with the flooring and halfway up the walls ripped off.
Anna Van Dine
For Vermont Public
The bottom floor of the Place's home flooded with about 3 feet of water from the Winooski River. This is Ashlee and Josh's bedroom, which they are now re-doing.

I'm Ashlee Place. We flooded — our first floor. We are a family of nine, we have seven kiddos ranging from 15 to almost 6. And we lost three bedrooms, all of our appliances, our chest freezer full of food, everything.

This is the second time our home has been flooded. We were flooded our entire first floor up to the ceiling with Irene, so this one isn't as bad. And so, we're counting our blessings this time, and using it as a blessing in disguise. And you know, figuring that out.

Anna Van Dine: It's got a very good disguise on … What's — what blessings are you seeing here?

Ashlee Place: Um, you know, I've been begging my husband for a laundry room. And so like, maybe I'll get a laundry room now. And our two oldest, who are almost 16 and 14, wanted new beds and dressers, and to like, update their little-kid rooms. And so now we're like, “Hey, we can do that now.”

And everything you have to, you know — you can't control situations. And so, it's all how you're reacting to the situation. And this is not something that I can control.

More from Vermont Public: Vermonters can begin applying for financial help through FEMA for flood recovery

 A photo of a hallway with plastic bins full of miscellaneous items.
Anna Van Dine
For Vermont Public
Belongings the Place family was able to salvage from their flooded Waterbury home are sitting in piles upstairs.

Anna Van Dine: And there's like, what, maybe a dozen houses in this section of Route 2?

Ashlee Place: There is, and we are all so close together. Dan and AJ, who are our neighbors, came over yesterday, and were ripping drywall out and ripping up the floor. And they were like, “It's so weird, ripping and tearing, tearing apart your house.” And we were like, “This is what you guys do, you’re construction workers, like you know what you're doing, like, go for it!”

And with that, you know, those expertise — that like, have come in, our house is so far along where it was with Irene. So like, you know, we have all of this stuff done. We're just waiting for it to dry out now. Where, you know, before — you know, Irene almost like preemptively prepared us for future stuff.

Anna Vane Dine: Can I see?

Ashlee Place: Sure. Yeah, come on. And it does smell. So be prepared. So this was my husband and I's room. This was our second bathroom. This was our 15-year-old’s room. This is where our washer and dryer was, and our chest freezer. We had a double refrigerator here that housed all of our extra food. Our water system, we don't have a water filtration system anymore. So we're on just our regular well water, which isn't safe to drink.

So it's those things that you don't really think of when it's flooding, is that your well goes, your water goes, your propane goes. Our propane tank was floating, you know, hanging on by a dear thread, and we can't cook here anymore because of those things. It's those things that like, you don't really realize.

This was our 15-year-old’s room. And as you can see, there's nothing here. You would never know that this was living space.

Anna Van Dine: It looks like a house under construction. Like it looks almost new.

Ashlee Place: You know and it brings you down to the original make of your home. And it allows you new space. And so, this time, we're going to switch up how we have it down here, we're gonna move some walls, and it allows you to be like, “OK, I don't really need that. So we're going to change it up this time.”

And so, when you have like great people like Spafford & Sons, who have come to like, do our well, our — they've been here all day. And people just willing to do, go the above and beyond and the extra to get you where you need to be as your home. You know, and understanding. It's just amazing.

 A photo of a woman in a room with a lot of items on the table. On the wall behind her is a sign reading "The Gathering Place."
Anna Van Dine
For Vermont Public
Ashlee Place stands next to her dining room table, which is currently covered with belongings from downstairs. She says this is the most important space in her home, where her family gathers together.

Anna Van Dine: I mean, you seem so positive. Like are you on some level losing it?

Ashlee Place: Um, deep down kind of, you know, tears have come and they've flowed. And they come when you're least expecting it, when you're going through your stuff and you find ultrasound pictures, or you find drawings and things like that. That's sad, but it's life, and we know this unfortunately. And we know that the river’s right there, and we've seen it flooded before.

Anna Van Dine: Why did you stay here after Irene?

Ashlee Place: This is home. This is our home. This is where our babies were born. And you know, our dining room table is where joy is and peace is and love. And that's just what our home is, is just love. And so we've stayed, and we're going to continue to stay.

Anna Van Dine: Even if it floods again?

Ashlee Place: Even if it floods again.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a message.

Flood recovery resources

      Corrected: August 25, 2023 at 12:51 PM EDT
      The Place family did not live in this home during Tropical Storm Irene. They purchased the home in 2013. The home did flood during Irene. We regret the error.
      Anna worked for Vermont Public from 2019 through 2023 as a reporter and co-host of the daily news podcast, The Frequency.

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