For nearly a year, Bex Prasse and Craig Kovalsky worked to restore every inch of the dilapidated building where they envisioned their future business, on up-and-coming Main Street in the small Vermont ski town of Ludlow.

The couple were newcomers to the rural state, part of a pandemic influx of younger transplants that has excited planners after decades of worrying about an aging, stagnant population.

“It’s a quaint, quintessential, wonderful New England town — it has that vibe — and it also has great potential,” said Ms. Prasse, 33, a Virginia native who has spent the last decade working as a scuba instructor. and a sea captain. in Fiji and the Caribbean.

Earlier this month, their work was almost done. Wall tiles and tabletops glistened. A new industrial kitchen stood ready. They ordered pots and pans, sketched out a menu of delicious sandwiches made with ingredients grown on local farms, and prepared to carve a wooden sign to replace the paper one in the front window: “Coming Soon Blue Duck Deli.”

The Black River, falling serenely over rocks just behind the building, had other plans.

Last Sunday, when rain began to fall, Mr. Kovalsky, a chef who has cooked in restaurants in New York, and more recently on superyachts cruising the globe, looked at the calm water and felt little fear. He knew about Tropical Storm Irene, which devastated the state in 2011, but had always heard it referred to as a “100-year storm.”

“We thought we wouldn’t be here when it happened again,” Mr. Kovalsky, 37, said. “We thought that then we would be retired somewhere.

Around 3 a.m. Monday, flood warnings blared from their cellphones. Ms. Prasse and Mr. Kovalsky rushed to empty tools and equipment from the attached garage behind the house, but shortly after 5 a.m., they said, the river overflowed its banks and invaded the structure. Fast-moving floodwater cut away one wall and filled the basement to the ceiling, destroying their brand new electrical system and two industrial freezers, and knocking the entire garage sideways.

When it was over, the couple stood stunned in the wreckage, then began to salvage what they could – a screwdriver here, a hammer there, among the boards and branches and shattered pieces of pavement. They felt lucky in one sense. The renovated delicatessen, closer to the street, was not badly damaged, nor were their apartments above it. But because the flooded garage, once a barn, was attached, it put the entire structure at risk.

They were not alone. Their town of 2,100 people suffered some of the worst flooding in the state amid more than seven inches of rain. It was part of a wide corridor of destruction that also included the capital, Montpelier, 80 miles to the north, and Barre, where the state’s first death from the storm was reported Wednesday after a 63-year-old man drowned in his home. .

It was a painful setback for Vermont at the height of its summer tourist season. Tourism pumps $3 billion into its economy each year and employs at least 30,000 people as 13 million visitors flock to take in the sweeping mountain views and covered bridges. While much of the state was unaffected by the flooding — even in Ludlow, which is in south-central Vermont, some businesses were unscathed — national news coverage of disasters typically leads to a wave of cancellations.

In Ludlow—first settled by farmers in 1783, then home to woolen mills powered by the river, and now best known as the home of Okemo Mountain Resort—momentum was building. Since Vail Resorts purchased the ski area in 2018, upgrading lifts and boosting marketing and year-round entertainment, new businesses have sprung up to serve new visitors.

The success of other young entrepreneurs, whose cocktails and freshly styled motels have enlivened Main Street, encouraged Ms. Prasse and Mr. Kovalsky, who both snowboarded in Vermont as children and roamed its back roads for months in search of the perfect location. put down roots.

Demographic changes since the pandemic have brought a new, if tenuous, stability: Ludlow, like other resort towns across Vermont and northern New England, became a haven for remote workers when offices closed in early 2020. Since then, some of its so-called Covid- refugees have moved there permanently, while others now stay for longer stretches in the ski houses and apartments set high above the city center on steep mountain roads.

That phenomenon helped push the state’s population up to 645,000 in 2021 from 624,000 in 2019, according to census data. That small increase, however, was “huge for Vermont,” which has offered incentive grants of up to $10,000 to people willing to move there in recent years, said Joan Goldstein, the state’s economic development commissioner.

It was enough to inspire new confidence in Ludlow. Last year, after seeing more customers even during Vermont’s less scenic “mud season” (early spring) and “stick season” (late fall), Patty Greenwood and her husband decided they could safely give up the second jobs that had long helped them do . ends meet while they were running a bookstore on Main Street.

“Before Covid, this was a two-season town, summer and winter,” said Ms Greenwood, whose store across the street from the river suffered minimal damage. “We thought if there’s ever a time to go for it, this is it.”

The state has also become a haven for another kind of newcomer – one who probably pays close attention to the floods. People seeking a more stable, safer climate are among those moving, according to recent research from the University of Vermont.

Richard Watts, director of the university’s Vermont Research Center, doubts those transplants will be deterred by the record rainfall and what it has caused. “These are people who study flood maps and make very careful, conscious choices,” he said. “They can choose to live above the flood line.”

On Wednesday, as clouds of dust swirled over sand- and gravel-covered sidewalks on Ludlow’s Main Street, and basement pumps and power washers droned, Ms. Prasse and Mr. Kovalsky worked in mud-caked boots to shore up their damaged property. They tried not to dwell on countless unknowns: Should they tear down and rebuild the 200-year-old back building? How much help would come from their bare bones insurance or FEMA? How long would tourists stay away? And most importantly, how long until they could open?

The back building by the river has already been “red-spotted,” or labeled uninhabitable, by inspectors, and the power may soon be cut off, forcing them to vacate their second-floor apartment. With a crew of friends and neighbors who showed up to help as soon as the waters receded, they raised new support beams to hold up the sagging garage, anchoring the supports more than two feet into the ground, and hoping the rains forecasted through. the weekend would not result in another flood.

Kindnesses multiplied around them. A neighbor offered them a place to live. With the local grocery store closed, several restaurants gave away free food. The liquor store — its hours listed on a sign outside as “Open” — handed out free water, and the American Legion post organized a pork dinner Friday night to benefit hard-hit residents.

Since they had sunk all their savings into the deli, abandoning the project was not an option, the couple said. But even if they could have cut their losses and moved on, the care the city has shown them since the flood cemented their commitment to stay.

“I’m like, we don’t deserve all this; we’re new here,” Mr. Kovalsky said.

Ms. Prasse said she didn’t cry once about the damage. But her eyes filled with tears when she talked about her neighbors.

“We haven’t had a chance to make them a sandwich yet,” she said.

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