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Leni Santoro | Democrat

SENATOR JOHN BONACIC, at left, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (partially hidden) flank Governor Eliot Spitzer, who flew in by helicopter yesterday morning to have a look at the flash flood damage and hold a press conference in Roscoe.

Flood Toll: Two Dead, Two Missing

By Ted Waddell and Leni Santoro
ROSCOE/COLCHESTER — June 26, 2007 — Governor Eliot Spitzer and Senator Charles Schumer were in Roscoe yesterday to take a first-hand look at the flood damage that took place with last Tuesday’s flash floods on the Sullivan-Delaware border.
Governor Spitzer flew in by helicopter yesterday morning. He was met by local, state and federal officials including Senator John Bonacic, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Assistant to Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Julie Allen, Sullivan County Legislative Chair, Chris Cunningham, Town of Rockland Supervisor, Pat Pomeroy, Delaware County Sheriff, Thomas Mills and New York State Emergency Management Office Assistant Director of Community Affairs, Dennis Michalski as well as 204th Engineer Battalion liaison representative, Army Sgt. Shane Spinner, among others.
As soon as he arrived at the firehouse on Union Avenue in Roscoe, Spitzer immediately met with local officials to assess what could be done. According to the Director of New York State Emergency Management, Dennis Michalski, Spitzer has been kept informed ever since the flooding occurred last week.
Today’s meeting was both to assess the damage first hand and an opportunity to speak to the public directly and answer questions. Michalski also explained that the appearance of the governor earlier and the media attention that it draws may have hindered the investigation and search and rescue efforts before now.
The governor’s debriefing was followed by a press conference outside the firehouse. When asked where all the water came from and how it could be prevented in the future, Spitzer explained that it was a flash flood situation.
“There is a seven-hundred foot drop from where the water began to where the homes were washed away… Is it a question of better preparedness or better cell service?” said Spitzer. “Sometimes simply getting the word out [fast enough] becomes impossible.”
Meanwhile he re-iterated that he will do anything he can to bring help to the area.
“We will be applying for anything we can make a legitimate case for,” said Spitzer. “We’ll do anything we can to get the most money to the area.”
Two bodies recovered
Fred Shutts, 81 was the first confirmed dead, and at approximately noon on Thursday, authorities announced that the NYS Police SCUBA Team had located the body of his wife, Marjorie E. Shutts, 79, in a nearby pond near Hodge’s and Cat Hollow Sand & Gravel.
During the flash flood, the pond served as a huge catch basin for debris.
NYS Senator John J. Bonacic visited the scene of the disaster on Thursday, noted that before his emergency trip to the region he asked Governor Spitzer to declare the area a disaster zone, in an effort to thus speed up aid to the stricken communities.
“I am shocked at the amount of devastation,” he said. “From eyewitnesses accounts, five feet of water came down from the top of the mountains… it was like a mini-tsunami.”
“These communities are devastated,” he added. “They’re broke, they have no money to fix the roads, and I’m going to ask the governor for emergency funding.”
According to Sen. Bonacic, a snapshot of the estimated cost of the flash flood damage is between $5-10 million.
“People are still recovering from the past floods,” he said. “They’re heartbroken.”
Keith Travers serves as 1st Assistant Chief of the Roscoe Fire Department.
“We’ve got the excavators and heavy machinery going through the rubble piles, and SCUBA divers and cadaver dogs checking bodies of water,” he said.
As of press time, 74-year old Barbara Clarke Cooper, formerly of Mileses, was still reported missing after her small four-door car was apparently caught in the rapidly rising flood waters near Hodge’s.
Also missing is Gertrude Melvin, who was visiting her daughter Elaine Finkle Tuesday night.

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