Irene’s toll on Castleton athletics complex

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 3:46 PM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - When Tropical Storm Irene drenched the state a decade ago, it left Castleton University’s new athletic complex in disarray.

“I was in a state of shock. I mean, it was like, ‘What is going on here?’” said Deanna Tyson, the university’s dean of athletics. “We just thought it would be a lot of rain, that maybe our fields would get a little wet and that was it.”

It turned out to be much more than “a little wet.” A branch of the Castleton River jumped the banks, flooding the two-year-old facility. “The river had been diverted to build a lot of our footprint here and so the water breached a point where it was turned to go in a different direction and the water ultimately followed exactly where it was 50 years ago,” said Dennis Proulx, Castleton’s dean of students. “Metal doors just ripped off, walls just gone.”

“I got to the top of the hill and I looked out and it was just chaos,” Tyson.

Within hours, water-covered cars in the parking lot and causing over a million dollars in damage to the sports complex. The football locker room, weight rooms, and offices were destroyed.

“It was amazing to see what the water had done, how much damage water can do,” Tyson said.

But Proulx says the campus immediately rallied together. “After the storm had passed and the flooding occurred, the aftermath was amazing to see, the student support for all of it,” he said.

Students who were already on campus spent the next day doing what they could to help recover. “We made an actual chain of people from the back end of the first floor all the way out where we would pick things up and pass to the next person,” Tyson said. “The whole lawn, the hill, was just covered with equipment.”

Through the collaborative effort, much of the gear and equipment were saved. The damaged athletic complex was fixed and no games were missed the week after the storm.

A plaque outside the locker room now marks where the water level was once several feet deep.

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