Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Fred Stabbert III | Democrat

Main Street on Livingston Manor was filled with up to three feet of water early on Friday morning after heavy overnight rains. Many of the merchants put sandbags in front of their entrances to keep the high waters at bay. The Manor Fire Department was kept busy pumping water out of businesses and residences’ basements.

Flooding is deadly as county gets drenched

By Kathy Daley and Fred Stabbert III
SULLIVAN COUNTY — October 5, 2010 — The morning was dark and a hard rain pounded the roads.
Nancy Lavelle of Willowemoc, on her way to work at 5 a.m. last Friday, piloted her car down Hunter Road in Claryville, at the northeastern border of Sullivan County.
Suddenly, according to Claryville firefighter Charles Breiner, it appears a wall of water slammed Lavelle and her 2009 Honda Civic.
“It was pitch black and raining like hell,” said Breiner, a fire police officer. “She might not have even seen it coming.”
Breiner noted that hilly Hunter Road makes a slight turn near the Halls Mills covered bridge, which is where firefighters surmise Lavelle may have plunged into the Neversink River.
“There was over six inches of rain in Claryville, causing major flooding along the Neversink,” Breiner explained.
Both Claryville firefighters and state police believe Lavelle may have unhooked her seat belt and fled the car. But both woman and vehicle were tossed by the rushing water into the river.
“She got swept away — there were even big trees going down that river,” said Breiner.
Lavelle’s family reported the 55-year-old woman missing after she never showed up for work. Lavelle was project manager for a glass company in Milton, Ulster County.
State Police headed the search and rescue efforts with numerous agencies and fire companies responding.
On Friday afternoon, a caretaker at the Big Bend Club on Hunter Road reported seeing an overturned car on a sandbar in the Neversink River about four miles downstream from the Halls Covered Bridge. Lavelle was not in the vehicle, which was crumpled up “like tinfoil,” according to State Police Investigator Michael Orrego. The driver’s seatbelt was undone.
A state police helicopter dropped a trooper and a fireman onto the sandbar to pry apart the car to make sure Lavelle’s body was not inside. At about noon the next day, Saturday, a helicopter from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection spotted Lavelle’s body on the shoreline of the Neversink Reservoir near the Neversink Dam.
Lavelle’s death is the sixth in the past five years blamed on massive area flooding. In 2006, a flood in Livingston Manor took the life of 15-year-old Jamie Bertholf, who drowned when her house collapsed as she stood on the porch waiting to be rescued.
In June, 2007, Fred Shutts, 81, of Roscoe and his wife Marjorie, 79, along with Barbara Cooper, 74 and Gertrude Melvin, 67, were victims of a flash flood in the Town of Colchester, two miles from downtown Roscoe on Route 206.
Richard Martinkovic, director of the Sullivan County Emergency Management and Public Safety Department, said the following emergency personnel responded to the Lavelle tragedy: New York State Police, including a helicopter, divers, canine unit, and airboat; New York City DEP officers and boats; Sullivan County Wildland Search and Rescue team and Sullivan County Underwater Recovery Team.
Also responding were New York State Forest Rangers; Grahamsville EMS, Claryville Fire Department, Napanoch Fire Department and numerous firefighters from around the county. The Ulster County Fire Department sent hovercraft boats from Woodstock, Martinkovic said.
Sullivan County’s 911 team coordinated communication efforts.
Martinkovic said Lavelle’s silver Honda will have to remain buried in the Neversink sandbar until the water level goes down low enough to allow a bulldozer in.
Other Flooding Reports
The massive Thursday-Friday rains caused flooding throughout the county, with the heaviest reported in Livingston Manor.
The Town of Rockland declared a State of Emergency on Friday with two to three feet of water flooding Main and Pearl streets in Manor, drenching basements in about 20 to 30 businesses and homes.
“The fire department pumped them out,” said Martinkovic
Residents along the Beaverkill were evacuated to emergency shelters set up at Roscoe Central School and Livingston Manor Presbyterian Church. Those evacuated included families along Manor’s Pearl, Meadow and Covered Bridge streets, about 48 homes total, said Livingston Manor Assistant Fire Chief Dan Roser.
Manor fire officials said nearly nine inches of water fell on the village in 24 hours, flooding the Little Beaverkill River primarily. Ambulances stationed on both sides of the raging river waited in case of emergencies. Manor firemen said there were no injuries.
The Roscoe Motel had to be evacuated as well.
Old Route 17 was flooded, and a county road washed out at Tennanah Lake, said Martinkovic. Police closed Route 206 for some time on Thursday night.
Pouring rain waterlogged streets and parking lots in Monticello, and flooding took place near the County Government Center. Fallsburg saw flooding. Trees fell throughout the county.
“I have to say that DPWs in the town and villages were on the job the whole time doing great work,” said Martinkovic.
As for Youngsville, which just underwent a brook remediation project, the hamlet “came out pretty good,” Martinkovic said. “The water got high but didn’t flood.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives