Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

KATIE BUSHELL OF Masonville screamed for help after her car stalled out in the middle of Roscoe’s floodwaters Sunday. Coming to her rescue was local businessman Elwin “Woody” Wood, pushing the panicked motorist to safety (despite having to contend with passing cars splashing him with water). But the car went nowhere under its own power, as the engine had sucked in too much water. Unfortunately, Bushell just bought the vehicle for $9,000 five days ago.

Destruction Returns
To Sullivan County

By Jeanne Sager and Ted Waddell
SULLIVAN COUNTY — April 5, 2005 – Seven months of bad memories came flooding back to residents of Sullivan County Saturday.
When weather forecasters put out a flood warning, folks who watched the rainstorms of Hurricane Ivan devastate their communities back in September, drew in their breath and started praying.
After a long winter and a sudden rise in temperatures last week, the snowpack had melted and already filled streams, creeks and rivers in Sullivan County to their capacities.
Then a heavy rainstorm hit Monday night, flooding basements and sending water flowing wherever it could find an escape route to those already swollen streams and creeks.
As Hortonville Fire Department Assistant Chief Darryl Emmett said the next morning, “there was nowhere for it to go.”
Then the rain started Friday night, dropping buckets of precipitation throughout the day Saturday and into Sunday.
Some estimates said Sullivan County got as much as 3 inches of the wet stuff in just one storm.
The county declared a state of emergency at 7 p.m. Saturday, and folks were advised to stay off the roads.
With nowhere to go, water rose above the banks of the Willowemoc and the Beaverkill in Livingston Manor and Roscoe.
The rain-loaded Delaware – flowing from even wetter towns upstate – hit Long Eddy, Callicoon, Cochecton, Narrowsburg and Barryville and surged above its banks to once again flood homes and destroy roadways.
Jane Bozan has lived in Yulan for 25 years, and she’s never seen anything like Saturday’s storm.
“They said in September that it was the worst flood since 1955,” Bozan said as she watched the floodwaters slamming up against the bottom of the Barryville bridge. “And now we've got it again – it's pretty scary."
Half of State Route 97’s run through Sullivan County was shut down to traffic. In some spots, giant boulders had been loosened in the rain-clogged cliffs and dropped onto the two-lane byway. In others the water had risen to heights that made the road impassable.
Town highway superintendents and supervisors said the damage was in the same exact spots reported last year – only this time, it was worse.
“We’ve sustained a considerable amount of damage,” said Town of Cochecton Supervisor Sal Indelicato. “It’s sort of devastating to this little town, as it is to other small towns.”
On Buff Road near Lake Huntington, for example, the town has replaced two 4-foot pipes – twice. Now the highway crews will be replacing those pipes once again.
Other roadways were destroyed entirely. In Cochecton, Dailey Road, Mitchell Pond East and West and other streets were washed out.
If you looked at Hurricane Ivan’s path of destruction and duplicated it, you’d have the map of flooding from Saturday, Indelicato surmised.
The same could be said in Delaware – where River, Winkelstern and Sickmiller roads, Route 52A and others all saw water rise once again to incredible heights, and Joe Brook again flowed straight through highway department headquarters in Hortonville.
The bridge on Viaduct Road in Hortonville is out “indefinitely,” according to Deputy Highway Superintendent Mike Eschenberg.
“It got hit by a floating object,” he explained. “People should stay off of it.”
There’s a lot of work to be done, but crews were already out over the weekend.
“We’re going to fix them all – people just have to be patient,” Eschenberg said.
According to Town of Callicoon Supervisor Gregg Semenetz, his town “dodged the bullet,” in terms of damage to main roads.
Only J. Young Road in Callicoon Center took a heavy hit – half a mile was washed out. The remainder of the work the highway department faces is on dirt roads and road shoulders.
But the weekend storm took out the Briscoe Dam, and the Village of Jeffersonville was “pounded.”
Residents of the island and Main Street business owners saw their basements quickly fill with water for the second time in a week.
Youngsville’s Hardenburgh Road Bridge, which the Town of Callicoon has been working to fix since last September, is now completely gone – washed out in Monday’s storm.
And, of course, in the Town of Rockland, where residents have gone so far as to suggest a plan developed in Elmira to alleviate flooding, folks told the same sad story – water in homes, water in businesses and destruction as far as the eye could see.
Byways such as Dahlia Road and Covered Bridge Road were literally covered in water.
“The river that pretty much fuels the town is also kind of killing it right now," said Brian Bury of Roscoe, who watched vehicles disregard barriers closing off the eastbound access along Stewart Avenue due to floodwaters.
Those cars, and several others, ended up stuck – floodwaters filled tailpipes and made it impossible for the vehicles to be moved.
For the most part people worked well together in Roscoe during the storm. Kevin Seeney, second assistant chief of the Roscoe-Rockland Fire Department said store owners were patient, and everyone was out helping, from firefighters to the members of the Ladies Auxiliary.
When the department itself had to evacuate their firehouse because of high water Auxiliary member Debbie Hendrickson opened up the Roscoe school to 87 evacuees Saturday evening.
“The whole town pulls together in something like this,” Seeney said. “Everything went smooth, everyone worked well together.”
Seeney said there were 10 other departments in Roscoe on Monday helping pump out basements – some from as far as Monticello and Hurleyville.
“We did pumpouts yesterday,” he said, “but the water table is so high it just went back in . . . we had people with perfectly good concrete floors that just buckled and the water gushed right in.”
Seeney said roads like Stewart Avenue, and Cottage, Union, Maple and Maynard streets are absolutely “devastated.”
In Fremont, the next town over, eight roads were completely impassable when the rain stopped its heavy onslaught.
By Monday morning, Supervisor Jim Greier said that number had been cut in half thanks to the hard work of the highway crews.
But still there’s a lot to be done.
“Right now, we’re just trying to make our roads passable – we’re still in a state of emergency, and we will be until we get all the roads passable,” he said. “In Tennanah Lake, roads are passable but dangerous, only one car can get through.”
Hardest hit were Neer, McColly and Deer Lake roads in Acidalia, and William Herbert and Weiss roads in Obernburg.
In Long Eddy, Greier said he saw a house near the Delaware River that had 4 to 5 feet of water standing in its first floor.
“It looked like about a foot of water had already receded at that point in the afternoon,” Greier noted.
While the sun is expected to shine today and waters will recede, the problem now is the aftermath.
Even with applications to FEMA for assistance, towns have to pay part of the cost for repairs, Indelicato said.
“We pay 12 1/2 percent . . . and we’ve already paid that, twice,” he said. “Now we’re at 37 1/2 percent.
“It’s overwhelming for little Cochecton, but we have to fix it.”
In Fremont, Greier said the town literally just received its FEMA check from last year’s storm.
And what you get from the federal government is only a “fraction” of the real costs of repairs.
“But it’s better than nothing,” he stressed.
The storm renewed a cry among residents for dredging of the area’s streams, creeks and rivers – so the water would have a place to go.
Eschenberg said that was much of the problem in his town.
“A lot of this is because they won’t clean the creek out,” he said. “People are paying taxes on land that’s washing away.”
"The town was supposed to go in there next to the Chinese restaurant and take away all the dirt they put in there, but they didn't do anything,” said a frustrated Shirley Fulton, owner of Wildlife Gift Shop on Livingston Manor’s main drag. “The water's being held in the town – that's the problem, and nobody wants to do anything.
"Until you fix the problems we have here, it's not going to help a damn thing – people have a right to swear, and the supervisor is in Australia."
Her gripes were repeated up and down Main Street where folks were mucking out their businesses.
"I don't know what's being done, or could be done, but I know that people are trying, and I don't blame anyone – it just happens,” said Chris Carreiro, owner of Manor Maid Antiques on Main Street. “I know it's not a simple problem – people will come up with too much logging, too much of this or that or not enough dredging ..."
Carreiro’s shop is across the street from the Willowemoc – yet the waters rose up over the banks of the creek, ran across the road, and climbed her steps.
When she entered her store, 3 to 4 feet of creekwater were standing amongst her antiques.
"The floods are coming closer and closer,” said Yolanda Aponte, a longtime business owner in the Manor. "It's the worst I've experienced in 35 years."

Westbrookville Escapes;
Others Not So Lucky

By Nathan Mayberg
SULLIVAN COUNTY — April 5, 2005 – One of the most devastating floods in Sullivan County history caused extensive damage throughout the region over the weekend. Eastern sections of the county were especially hard hit.
On State Route 42, the main bridge in and out of South Fallsburg suffered so much water damage that it was closed indefinitely. Traffic is being re-routed, according to Fallsburg Police Chief Angel Lamboy. He said the bridge could remain closed for weeks or months until the state repairs it, which will delay many travelers along one of the main commercial routes in the county.
On Hasbrouck Road in Woodbourne, the Neversink River overflowed, destroying several small bridges, according to Lamboy. The Neversink Campgrounds were believed to have been lost, he said. No injuries were reported.
In Bridgeville, the Neversink overflowed to such an extent that it reportedly hit the rooftop of the Holiday Mountain Ski Chalet. Two dozen homes and properties were flooded all along Holiday Mountain Road and Edwards Road. One cat drowned.
As of Sunday, traffic into Edwards Road was blocked off, due to the tremendous flooding. Homeowners on both roads were taken out on rafts by the Rock Hill and Wurtsboro fire departments.
Bob Whipple’s Ski Shop lost hundreds of skis, said Rock Hill firefighter John Dollard, who along with fellow volunteer Jim Cavello helped pump out the basement – one of countless throughout the county which were flooded. Dollard said the water was eight feet deep in the basement. Phones were out on the road for two nights.
On Sunday, the Neversink River was still swamping the Holiday Mountain Ski Chalet, where it flipped the front shack at the entrance. Whipple’s garage was smashed, and one of his shacks was sent into a tree. His gazebo was hanging over the edge of the Neversink.
Both Dollard and Cavello said it was the worst flood they had ever seen. Their department, like others throughout the region, worked day and night to help local residents.
In Swan Lake and Parksville, several roads were washed out, according to Town of Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo. The Foot Bridge was damaged and Lily Pond was also a source of concern, he said.
In Westbrookville – the scene of utter devastation last year – several properties were flooded, but not to the same extent as last year.
However, some residents – who lost entire garages, cars and even private bridges last year – believed they were only a little more rain away from losing so much once again.
They said they were outraged that, nearly nine months later, they had received hardly any aid from the local, state or federal government.
Harold Ashworth, whose bridge was wiped out during last August’s flood, said he had to rebuild the bridge which leads to his home at a cost of $50,000 of his own money.
“Lady Bush just went to Afghanistan with $20 million and an envelope,” he bitterly observed.
The water from the Pine Kill was violently flowing nearby, redirecting itself outward, and hitting Ashworth’s new bridge. He is seriously concerned that the bridge may fall again.
If something is not done soon to protect the land from the river, the floods will continue and get worse, he said.
The edges of the waterway have to be shored up with large rocks, something that none of the agencies have done. He had to purchase his own large rocks to protect his home from the river.
Another piece of land, which he rents out, was not as lucky. Not only was the basement flooded this time, but since the last flood, the river had created a new path, taking out an enormous tree which collapsed last November. More and more of his land is being eaten up by the river, yet nothing is being done by any agency to protect his property.
Erin and Jeff Phelan – who lost their garage last year, one of their cars, a Jeep, several rooms in their home, as well as portions of their property and driveway – said they received $5,000 from FEMA, although the agency estimated their “necessary damage” at $95,000. The Phelans said their actual damage was $175,000.
The state never gave them anything, they said.
Since that time, they have had to rebuild their porch, redo their kitchen and reconstruct their rooms. They said that logs hovering close to the river, or in danger of falling in, should be removed to lessen the threat of more damage in the next flood.
The federal government did assist them in placing large rocks to buffer their property from the river, which shoots just feet away from their home and was coming down high and fast over the weekend. That is a far cry from last summer, when they walked across the river to go fly-fishing.
They did thank the Lions Club in particular for their “wonderful” assistance, as well as other people in the community.
But they are very afraid that next time they won’t be as lucky as this one.
“We dodged a bullet,” said Jeff.

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