Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

RESIDENTS OF STEWART Road in North Branch were greeted by this sight when they woke up Thursday morning. According to Town of Callicoon Supervisor Gregg Semenetz, the rainstorm sent water flooding over the road, moving a large expanse of blacktop and leaving a hole at least 10 feet deep (which workers had already begun to fill by the time this photo was taken).

Storms Rip
Roads Apart

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — September 5, 2003 – If they got any sleep at all, the folks in northern Sullivan County awoke to a mess Thursday morning.
Roads were closed, ditches were flooded, and in some spots, mostly in the Town of Callicoon, entire sections of blacktop had been ripped away from the road and carried into cornfields and front lawns.
The rainstorm that has carried on throughout the week did its worst damage in the early hours of Thursday, sending fire departments out to help guide traffic around dangerous spots and detouring buses on only the second day of school.
According to Sullivan County Public Works Commissioner Pete Lilholt, the thunder and lightning rocked the towns of Fremont, Rockland, Neversink, and Callicoon.
The Town of Thompson, where he’s headquartered, and the Town of Highland, where Lilholt lives, came out relatively unscathed.
Other reports showed that the Town of Delaware was badly hit as well. County Road 164 which runs from Hortonville to Jeffersonville near the Villa Roma had ditching and road erosion problems, especially on some of the steeper hills.
Traffic was cut down to one lane while county crews worked to repair the damage in that area.
Other crews spent the day inspecting bridges to ensure that the waters coursing beneath them had not compromised the integrity of the viaducts.
Problems were reported from Lew Beach to Fremont.
“There’s a lot of roads that were and are in jeopardy of flooding,” Lilholt said Thursday morning while crews were still assessing the damage. “We have a lot of edgelines eroded, plugged culverts. . .
“We apparently dodged the bullet here [in Monticello], but the northern part of the county has been severely hard-hit.”
Crews from the county and area towns were out most of the night trying to put a stopgate on the flooding and damage.
In the Town of Rockland, Highway Superintendent Bowman Owen had to shut down both Craigie Clair Road and Beaver Lake Road, but by midmorning they were open again and safe for travelers.
Owen estimates there was about $10,000 worth of damage with all the shoulders in disrepair in his town.
“The problem is, it’s not over yet,” he said. “The rain keeps on coming.”
A report that the sun may come out this weekend was “the best news I’ve had in a long time,” he said.
With a National Weather Service advisory out about flooding on some local waterways (including the Beaverkill and the East Branch of the Delaware River), Owen said he was taking a careful look at the Willowemoc and Beaverkill.
“They’re at the stage where a little more rain will make them dangerous,” Owen said. “They’re not in the road yet, but they’re right there.”
The Town of Fremont, which lost several roads to rainstorms earlier this summer, made it through the Thursday night deluge relatively unscathed.
The one county road severely affected was the Basket Road which runs from Long Eddy into the Town of Hancock.
A slide in the middle of the night shut down the byway, Lilholt said, and had to be cleaned up by road crews before motorists could get through.
“We’ve got just a few little washouts here and there,” said Highway Superintendent Martin Meyer. “I guess we were lucky this time.”
The same could be said in Neversink, where Highway Superintendent Gary VanValkenburg was assessing the damage and planning to apply for federal funding to help fix the roadways.
No streets were closed and everything was repaired by midmorning, but there was a lot of roadside damage, he said.
In the Town of Callicoon, however, an entire strip of Stewart Road was lifted by the water and sent down the hillside. Most of it ended up in the cornfields and lawn at Kevin and Kathy Zieres’ home while the water coursed toward County Road 121.
According to Supervisor Gregg Semenetz, who was out surveying the damage to his town Thursday, that was the only road to be closed down, but there was plenty of work being done on other streets throughout the town.
Town of Callicoon Highway Superintendent Jim Hess could not be reached because he and crews were out on the roads preventing further flood damage.
Town of Delaware Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg and his men were similarly occupied, with water flowing down roads across the town.
The crews have spent the last few weeks cleaning up from other storms, and one of the most recent projects – a wall on Tower Road in Callicoon built to prevent a stream from continuously rising over the pavement – was taken back a few steps during the night.
Because of the streams on either side of the road, the bottom of Tower Road was closed until last week when the town could acquire permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation to step into the water and repair the damage.
The work was not yet completed when the strong currents of water flowing toward the Delaware River Thursday morning moved three of the huge stones set up to protect the roadside.
Private homeowners were also struggling to protect their homes from the water, which has come nonstop since Monday, flooding basements and washing away trees and landscaping.
Floyd Campfield of Narrowsburg has been trapping eels in his weir on the Delaware for 41 years.
The entire weir was destroyed in one of the downpours this week – only the second time that’s happened in his years on the river.
Looking at the wreckage, Campfield surmised a tree went through. Out of about 13 boxes, he said, “I think I lost all of them.”
High water kept him from working on the weir most of the summer, and he had just completed rebuilding a stone wall last week.
“I put a lot work into this thing,” he said. “But that’s one of the things you live with when you do this.”

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