“In the beginning, nobody really evacuated down here until I called 911. I told them you gotta send someone down here to evacuate us. The water came up so fast,” Peterson, 67, said a week after she and her brother were part of a dramatic rescue mission that has left her brother hospitalized.
Irene’s torrential rains pounded the area, creating raging rivers out of normally serene waterways. The rising Walloomsac essentially created a new river down Route 67A near the Paper Mill covered bridge. Water flowed without restraint, destroying the road and flooding homes.
Meanwhile, Peterson and her brother waited for help to arrive. Members of the North Bennington Fire Department mobilized and approached the Petersons’ home with a boat. Peterson said she and her brother were loaded in and began making their way to safety.
Then the problems began.
“We got up to the picket fence and they couldn’t get us any farther. They tried to pull and it still wouldn’t go. The boat started filling up with water. That’s when I slipped out and I grabbed a tree in my yard and held onto a limb. In the meantime, my brother was hanging onto
the picket fence and there was a guy trying to put a lifejacket on him,” Peterson said.Peterson would cling to the tree — and life — for an hour while rescue personnel struggled against the fast-moving flood water. “I kept hollering please help me. And they kept saying they’ll be coming pretty soon. I was fighting the debris that was coming down. There was an awful lot of debris — trees and everything else,” she said. “I was going from one hand to the other hand. I got a lot of bruises.”