Contributed photo by Rick and Debbie Keller
THE FORCE OF the floodwaters on a normally placid brook moved this heavy bridge on Rick and Debie Keller’s property two feet.
Kohlertown residents fed up with flooding
By Jeanne Sager
KOHLERTOWN All it took was an hour of rain, and Kohlertown had its fourth flood of the summer.
That was last weekend, August 24. So it’s no wonder residents were gathered around their TVs and computers this weekend, watching the hurricane move north.
“If it had gotten closer, it would have been the fifth flood,” said John McCormack on Saturday afternoon from his home on Route 52 in the heart of the flood zone.
Well in the heart of where it floods.
According to the new FEMA flood maps, the home McCormack shares with wife Sue is still not in a flood zone.
Unfortunately, no one told the water.
While their neighbors on either side have been the focus of flood news reports over the years, Kohlertown has been cut off, the entrances to the farthest section of the Town of Delaware cut off by other flooding issues.
But Kohlertown has flooded. And flooded. And flooded again.
And though each individual event does not carry the same weight as the floods of 1996, say or 2006, the four floods in the past month in Kohlertown have taken their toll.
“It’s just been non-stop,” John explains. “I’ve given up on cleaning up the yard.”
Sue, who runs a daycare, has not been able to let the children play outside in weeks.
The water fills their garage again and again, and after the second flood this summer, the couple decided to stop putting back the lawnmower and other machinery they move each time. There’s a routine now for Kohlertown residents.
Suzanne Andrews opens her fence to let the water flow through. She picks up everything in her yard.
Earlier this summer, when it rained for three days, she took pictures of a trout a neighbor plucked straight out of the water running down Route 52. A biology major in college, Andrews is tired of hearing about the trout.
“I’m all for saving habitats, but you can’t tell me it’s good for that trout to be swimming in an oil slick up Route 52,” she said.
There are dead fish all over Kohlertown.
Rick and Debbie Keller’s dog has picked them up much the way the water picked up their bridge and moved it two feet.
“This is not a little bit of water,” Rick said, “My bridge was 15 tons!”
The problem for Kohlertown isn’t the Callicoon Creek this year. The waterway has gotten much of the heat over the years both for what happened in Youngsville and further downstream in Callicoon.
But it’s the tributaries coming down out of the Beechwoods and Hess Creek, which run along behind Kohlertown, which are causing the problem. The waters come barreling off the mountain and have nowhere to go the streams are filled with silt so they land in resident’s yards. During one flood this summer, more than 3 feet of water coursed straight down Route 52.
It’s as though there needs to be a relief valve, Rick said, some way to divert water down to the much larger creek so it can bypass the homes of Kohlertown.
Flowing so fast and so heavy, the water’s moved the Kellers’ bridge, lumber from Kohler and chunks of pavement from Siggy’s parking lot. It’s destroyed cars, filled garages and basements.
“All from the current, it’s peeling the pavement up,” John McCormack noted. “That’s a lot of weight to pick up asphalt.”
And the residents are tired.
They’ve asked for help only to have one brook cleaned out once. That’s long since been refilled. They got a dumpster from the Town of Delaware for flood debris this time around and it filled in no time.
Two years ago, the McCormacks read that Congressman Hinchey had secured federal monies for an Army Corps of Engineers study to be done. They thought that meant something would finally be done.
But nothing has.
“They have the money to start doing it, so start doing it!” John said, shaking his head in frustration.
Route 52 will now officially be in the flood zone, according to the new FEMA flood maps set to go into effect next year that should make this a state problem, the Kohlertown residents say.
“Something has to be done,” Rick Keller added. “Every year it’s two or three floods this year it’s four, and we didn’t even hit the wet season yet! Everything done so far has been a temporary fix, a Band-Aid, there’s got to be a solution.”
And so the people in Kohlertown live with the scent of mold in their homes with dehumidifiers making their electric meters spin, deodorizers barely masking the scent.
They live with one eye on the weather channel, the other on the back door where they might have to start prepping for the next storm.
It’s been five years since flooding started in earnest in this county, and the residents of Kohlertown say they don’t have another five years in them to wait for an answer.