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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

THE FAMOUS (OR infamous) River Road sign near Callicoon was once again virtually underwater this week.

'All Hell Broke Loose'

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — June 30, 2006 – In September 2004, they said it was a once-in-a-lifetime flood. April 2005, twice-in-a-lifetime. But three times in a lifetime?
For the third time in 21 months, the county was hit by a flood worse than any in memory.
And this time, it was worse, much worse.
“You talk to the old guys, this is worse than the ‘47 storm,” said Town of Callicoon Supervisor Gregg Semenetz.
After declaring a town-specific state of emergency Monday evening because of flash flooding, Semenetz saw entire portions of his town shut down Wednesday.
The Callicoon Creek rose up into Youngsville, washing through Youngsville Garage and across the road.
Residents in the apartment building between John’s General Store and St. Francis Roman Catholic Church were evacuated by front-end loader because vehicles could no longer ford the waters swirled up near the store where creeks meet.
Legislator Rodney Gaebel placed a call to his son, Scott, around 4 a.m. telling him to leave from Callicoon Center and get to Youngsville.
Gaebel’s wife, Julie, said her husband arrived at their garage only to find that the water was already above the hoods of the vehicles in their used car lot, and it was still rising.
“It basically looks like an earthquake hit,” she said.
The front row of used cars are piled on top of one another in the woods while the garage’s flatbed is nose down in the ground.
Inside the garage is a foot of mud along with trees and debris – including glass from the broken windows.
“It’s like the ground opened up in places,” Gaebel said. “There’s no words unless you see it.
“You just have no concept . . . but we’re fine, our family . . . you can’t replace people,” she said. “It’s just going to be a long road ahead of us.”
The creek continued down into Jeffersonville, breaching its banks yet again and filling the island with water.
Once again, residents of the island evacuated, watching the water rise into their homes from the Schadt Memorial Bridge.
Andy Dressel shrugged his shoulders as he watched.
“This is worse than the last one,” he said helplessly. “This is the worst yet.
“We keep getting a 50-year flood every year,” Dressel said. “They can say what they want . . . it’s just getting old.”
In 19 years, Jackie Oliver had never seen water fill her living space – in April it entered a game room in an accessory building on the property.
She stood at the base of Schadt Bridge, watching as the creek entered her dining room.
“You can always re-landscape,” said her husband, Stan. “But mud . . . you can’t get that out, that’s fine silt.
“It’s a beautiful area,” Stan said, “but the floods get you.”
Mayor Ed Justus has never seen the waters of the Callicoon Creek come across Main Street and into his business.
Justus Tire and Alignment is across the street from the creek – across a long lawn and set back on a large parking lot.
Wednesday morning, his garage was full of water and mud.
Water flowed through the businesses on Main Street, washing into Dr. David Sager’s chiropractic office.
Water swept Sue Bodenstein’s stock right out of the garage next door and through the chain link fence that separates Sager’s driveway from the Peck’s Market parking lot.
As waters receded late morning, firefighters rescued items that belonged on shelves in Bodenstein’s Secret Garden from the JEMS garden by the firehouse.
A water line on the fire department’s garage showed the creek had touched the Smokey Bear emblem several feet off the ground – and the smell of propane in the air made it evident that the valve had been worked off the tank in the Peck’s parking lot.
The lot was destroyed, but the inside of the store seems to have been spared.
Minor water damage to the floors will have to be fixed, but the grocery store is expected to reopen in a few days.
The Peck’s branch in Callicoon wasn’t so lucky.
“It’s 20 times worse [than April],” said Manager Jeremy Guinan. “Last time it didn’t get in the store, it only got in the basement.
“In some spots, there was 2 1/2 feet of water in the food aisles,” he said.
Even as waters receded from the parking lot into the Callicoon Creek Wednesday morning, a massive cleanup effort was under way.
If the bright yellow caution tape didn’t keep customers back, large hand-lettered signs greeted them at the door: “Closed until further notice . . . do not enter the store.”
Pumps ran all morning long to remove water from the store as staff filled wheelbarrows with spoiled food, stepping carefully through the muck and the mud.
Guinan said there’s no way to tell when the store will reopen – even after the cleanup is complete, the board of health will be coming in for its standard inspection.
Callicoon was hit not only by the Callicoon Creek but the Delaware River, which rose to record levels Wednesday.
Town of Delaware Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg got a call Tuesday afternoon from his sister-in-law who works in Liberty.
Her son was sitting in their home on River Road, a dead end on the Delaware in Callicoon, watching the water rise.
By the time Eschenberg made it from Hortonville to assess the situation, the road was already covered in water.
Shutting it down to traffic, Eschenberg passed the word along to his foreman, Callicoon Fire Chief Willie Maxwell, that evacuations were needed.
The fire department took its 4-wheelers down the railroad tracks, pulling out Eschenberg’s nephew and others.
River Road was hardest hit in the Town of Delaware, along with the Back Bridge in the Kohlertown section of Jeffersonville, which was destroyed by debris and carried down the creek.
The Viaduct Road Bridge, which was knocked off its footings in April 2005, was hit once again, Eschenberg said.
It’s now turned sideways across the brook.
Eschenberg’s thoughts on Wednesday were in his town barn – evacuated as the water rose out of Joe Brook and the Callicoon Creek and flowed through the barn yet again and washed the highway department’s sand pile down to the Delaware.
“The roads are good, the barn not so good,” Eschenberg said.
Three floods in, Eschenberg said things were “typical.”
“You save what you can save,” he said pragmatically. “It’s just as bad as any other flood we’ve had, maybe worse.
“But it’s time to move,” he added.
Joann Haberli can’t take another flood.
When the Delaware rose in September 2004, it claimed dozens of campers from the Haberlis’ Red Barn Campgrounds in Hankins.
When it rose in April 2005, it left a few inches of water in the Haberli home next door.
Joann, Scott and their two sons haven’t even been living in the renovated home (redone after April) for a year.
But Wednesday, Joann surmised there could be as much as 4 feet of water in her one-story home.
Next door, the house her nephew shares with his fiancee and future brother- and sister-in-law was filled to the windows.
Her brother-in-law’s garage had water flowing straight through.
“We just can’t go through it anymore,” Haberli said. “We’re looking at our property, and there’s no place to go.
“Last time, it was fixed,” she said. comparing her house to a car. “This time, it’s totaled.”
Ed Sykes has lived on the river most of his life – and he’d never seen it as high as it was on Wednesday.
With his big SUV, Sykes was able to drive onto the railroad tracks and check out the back side of the homes along River Road, including his own.
His insurance office, Mike Preis, sustained 4 feet of water in Roscoe. His Callicoon office and many others were safe – thanks, he said, to a culvert put in after the flood of 1996.
“That saved our bacon,” Sykes noted.
But the pond in front of his home was now part of the river, he said.
Neighbors set back from the water were spared – they had water in their basements and little else. But houses nearest the river were decimated.
In Narrowsburg, the Delaware rose into the flats and filled trailers with water up to the ceiling.
“The righthand side of the river was meeting the lefthand side of the river,” said Craig Burkle, a member of the Narrowsburg Fire Department. “Houses were right in the middle.
“Most of Delaware Drive is pretty well devastated.”
The fire department started its evacuations early that morning, turning to rescue missions as the day went on.
“The water just came up so quickly, so fast,” Burkle said.
“All hell broke loose.”

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