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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

NO ONE WANTED to sit under this tent Friday afternoon. Thanks to some heavy rains that pounded down on the county Thursday night, this shoreside tent was suddenly in the middle of the Delaware River in Callicoon on Friday.

Relentless Rain Leads
To Relentless Damage

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — August 17, 2004 – Janet and David Will know better than to underestimate the power of water.
The fire siren clanging up the street from their Callicoon Center home woke the couple from a deep sleep Thursday evening.
They expected to hear the steady beat of rain that was pounding out a rhythm on their roof when they went to bed.
Coupled with the pounding rain, the Wills thought they heard a “whooshing” – the sound of water rushing past their bedroom window.
Glancing at the clock, David Will realized it was after midnight, but he decided to go investigate.
His reaction?
Something he said couldn’t be printed in the paper.
The Callicoon Creek had risen several feet above its banks, and it was now rushing through the Wills’ lower shed, flowing over the top of a sluice pipe that feeds into their pond and ripping out the very shrubbery that the Department of Environmental Conservation suggested they plant to divert floodwaters.
The hamlet’s fire department was on its way to pump out other properties affected upstream, and the couple set to work saving what they could in their own backyard.
Surveying the damage Sunday, Janet Will said the creek will likely never go back to its original path.
Much of the property the couple has been mowing for the past several months to prepare to put up an orchard may well stay underwater.
It’s frustrating for a family that has done everything the DEC has asked and more.
Eight years ago, when a similar flood made their backyard a lake, the Wills contacted DEC and Soil and Water Conservation.
“They speced out what they wanted to put the creek back where it belonged, and we paid out of our pocket to have it done to their specs,” David noted.
“We planted plants to help with erosion and shrubbery, we put the brook back in its original spot . . . it was all graded to their specs,” he explained.
Now all that work, all that money, has been for naught.
The dam on the Wills’ pond was washed out by the rushing water. The work to rebuild the bank of the creek has been almost completely eroded.
Downed trees have redirected the water, and the Wills will have to talk with DEC’s different permit offices before they can even step foot in the water to begin righting the wrongs.
David called DEC Monday morning and was told he can get some permits, but again the projects will have to be done according to their specs – and the cost will come out of pocket.
Meanwhile, water was still running through the couple’s shed – lawnmowers and other equipment had to be moved out and stored in a friend’s shed to protect them from rust and other damage.
The story was the same for some local highway departments as well – roads were closed throughout the area as rain pounded the pavement.
The bridge which connects Narrowsburg to Pennsylvania was shut down for several hours because of the rising Delaware River, and State Route 52 in Kohlertown was almost impassable for much of Friday morning.
The Gulf Road between Callicoon Center and Roscoe was shut down in the midst of the storm as well.
And roads throughout the Town of Rockland were hard hit.
Highway Superintendent Bowman Owen said his crews were working overtime Saturday to make Huber Road passable and clean out ditches plugged up by debris.
“It rained so hard, so fast it just plugged up the pipes,” Owen said. “It came flowing down the hills and ripped huge gouges under the pavement.”
His roads remained open – even if flags and flares had to be set up to direct traffic onto one lane.
But there’s going to be a lot of cleanup to do.
The matter wasn’t helped by vandals who hit the town the night before.
In Owen’s words, “Wednesday night we had a group of terrorists go through the town.”
The vandals broke out 12 windows in the town’s grader, damaged lights and destroyed street signs.
Property owners from Willowemoc to Cooley had their windowpanes shot out and their neighborhoods destroyed.
Cleaning up after the vandals and repairing storm damage made for a tough week for the Town of Rockland highway crews.
“Hopefully we’ll get some help from FEMA,” Owen said.
Town of Callicoon Highway Superintendent Jim Hess had the same thought.
“[FEMA] is the only savior we have anymore,” he said.
As of yesterday, he still had some roads closed in his town, and his crews were hard at work to fix Hust Road, the last road to remain closed.
Hess said he lost eight roads, and he estimates damages exceed $100,000.
Hessinger-Lare, Dietz, Wall, J. Young, Old Danzer, Mauer and Wegman roads are all passable now, but Hess says motorists should “pass with caution.”
The luckiest town in the area seemed to be the Town of Delaware, where only state roads were affected.
Although the fire department in Callicoon was still called to pump out basements, Town Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg said his crews were proactive – they cleaned out ditches ahead of time, and they were able to weather the storm.

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