Hurricane Irene's damage lingers in outdoor communities; flood of generosity follows

Some of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Irene are outdoor recreation towns in the Northeast. SNEWS checks in with retailers who sustained damage to their stores, and those who are helping clean-up efforts in their communities. Find out how you can help.

While many outdoor retailers along the East Coast are grateful to have come out of Hurricane Irene unscathed, some weren’t as fortunate.

The Mountaineer ( in Keene Valley, N.Y., was flooded. And its outlet store (photo, right) a few miles away is now filled with mud and destroyed goods. Washed out roads and tough access on those that are open will likely continue to hamper the business, owner Vinny McClelland told SNEWS. But McClelland said he isn’t so worried about his stores as much as he is about his community.

McClelland has seen damage in Keene Valley that includes the destruction of the local fire department building, the flooding of the roads, and landslides washing out local trails (which are one of the big draws to the Adirondacks). He’s worked with the Adirondack Community Trust and the Keene Community Trust to establish the Keene Flood Recovery Fund to help victims of the storm, and he donated many hours of muscle power to the clean-up efforts.

“The donations are pouring in,” McClelland said. He said it’s the generous nature of the outdoor industry to help one another out. “It’s nice to be part of a larger community that is the outdoor industry and to see the kind of support and concern that people have from that community.”

Irene takes a swipe at the outdoors

Along with the Adirondacks in New York, the storm hit many popular outdoor recreation areas in Vermont. And while some specialty shops escaped damages, their customers and communities did not.

Tracy Wilson, soft goods buyer at Peak Performance Ski Shop in Killington, Vt., said the first week in September is generally when ski racers hit the store to get gear for the upcoming season. Since the town is flooded and many of the major roads going into it suffered severe damage, the store isn’t seeing that traffic.

“It has affected business, certainly,” Wilson said. “This is starting into a peak time of year.”

Because of the damage to the roads, delivery service has been interrupted so new products aren’t making their way onto the store floor. UPS is only allowed into Killington once a week because the company received a special permit, but other delivery companies have yet to secure a permit for delivery. Wilson said she is hoping the store can step up its Internet sales.

McClelland said a lot of his business comes from hikers hoping to get out into the Adirondacks and, like Killington, Keene Valley is dealing with damaged roads leading into the area.

“We’re back open for business but the problem is there is very little or no business because it’s hard to get here. All the roads are in really bad shape the authorities are discouraging people from coming into the region,” McClelland said. “It will be a couple weeks before things get back to normal.”

How you can help

Right now many people are focused on helping others because, McClelland said, it would be strange not to help out neighbors in need.

“That’s why we live in communities like this because you help your neighbor, and it’s all about community,” McClelland said. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund at

Many of the communities devastated by the storm are small communities and most need help. An easy way to do this is through national organizations like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, which both encourage people to donate money rather than goods because the floods make it difficult to get the goods to communities and to store them.

The Red Cross is accepting donations at The Salvation Army is accepting donations via phone (1-800-SAL-ARMY), via web ( or via text (by texting the word ‘storm’ to 80888).

In addition, Eastern Mountain Sports will raise funds for victims at its annual Nor’easter event, Sept. 23-25, in Burlington, Vt. Merrell will donate $10 for every racer participating in SmartWool’s Ridiculissima Race, 4:30 p.m., Sept. 23 at the event. People who dress in costumes can race for free. For more information visit

News about other fundraising efforts can be posted in the SNEWS Chat, below.

Through all the damage and clean-up, spirits in the region remain high, SNEWS was told, and there’s still room to look on the bright side.

“The hurricane basically dumped an enormous amount of rain on the mountains,” McClelland said. “We had multiple landslides in the mountains which will incidentally result in some amazing back country skiing if we get a decent winter.”

–Ana Trujillo