Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
March 10, 2009 Issue
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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

ROSCOE FIRE CHIEF Steve Chesney dispatches directions to members of the volunteer department via radio from his post at command central - the firehouse on Union St. Reading over paperwork in the background at left is his immediate predecessor, Past Chief Jason Rogers.

Roscoe escapes the worst of the storm

By Jeanne Sager
ROSCOE — “Here we go again.”
It was an attempt at humor, but Roscoe business owner Pat Yelle’s sagging shoulders belied her light tone.
She’d just left the front door of Morningstar Creations wrapped in plastic, weighed down by sandbags.
She was as ready as she could be for another disaster to hit Roscoe.
For the fifth year in a row, the waters came. After furious thunderstorms, it ripped down the mountains and send chunks of rock and mud out across Old Route 17 between Roscoe and Livingston Manor.
It created ponds in the front yards of families living on Old Route 17 in the heart of Roscoe and began filling the Kirchner’s Chevrolet garage.
It sent Holiday Brook out across Route 206 on the way to Downsville, shredding pavement in its path.
The water dropped trees and spread over the county road on the way to Tennanah Lake, the roiling currents reaching to Legislator Elwin Wood’s hips when he tried to wade through to assess the damage to his district.
“Tennanah Lake has significant damage, and until the water goes down, we won’t know how much,” Wood said.
Lew Beach was under water too, he said, and the county department of public works was scrambling to reopen major arteries through the Town of Rockland.
By mid-evening, they’d succeeded in reopening the Gulf Road between Callicoon Center and Roscoe – a trying task that took several tries with a backhoe.
Each time they seemed to make some headway, water came rushing back down the mountain and into the roadway.
Old Route 17 was reopened on Wednesday evening too – the mudslides cleared away by the county’s quick response.
They’d been on alert since Wednesday morning, Wood said, aware that the National Weather Service was warning extreme weather was headed to Sullivan County.
Wood got a call in the early afternoon – his tractor and wood he’d set aside to build a shed were floating.
“Not only is it in in my district, but I live it,” he said. “My store, my house.”
County on the go
The county got moving immediately – Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic manning his post even while away on vacation and Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer heading out to inspect damaged roads in various parts of the county.
“While most of our field forces were initially involved, as problems were addressed and corrected, we scaled back,” Meyer said. “I’d estimate we had 20 to 30 people work until dark. Everyone was in by 9:30 p.m. except for response to a tree down on County Road 122 which I received from 911 about 9 p.m.
“At that point all county roads were passable except for County Road 92, Tennanah Lake Road which remained closed overnight.”
The Roscoe fire department was first on the scene, blocking off roads and rescuing families.
In all they evacuated 25 to 30 people, said Fire Chief Steve Chesney. That included visiting families staying at the Roscoe Campgrounds and the Roscoe Motel during the day and an early morning rescue in the Tennanah Lake area.
A temporary evacuation site was set up at the Roscoe Central School with at least a dozen people camping out inside. Others made a beeline for the firehouse, where they waited for news and grilled State Police troopers who’d just returned from the center of the disaster.
Chesney was constantly on the go, routing fire trucks here and volunteers there. On the rare occasions that the usually jovial chief took a seat, he covered his worn face with his hands for a moment before leaping back to his feet and hurrying on to the next task.
Second Assistant Chief Steve Hecht allowed only a grimace and a brief moment to bemoan the loss of his driveway and heavy damage to his property up on Route 206 before he, too, hurried back to work, his jeans soaked through.
The firemen in Roscoe were living the disaster for the fifth time in as many years as volunteers and as victims once again.
One fireman’s wife and children were rescued by the department, stuck in their home on 206. Another had a tree down on his house.
tributaries do damage
Initial warnings that the rivers would overflow their banks and send water through town proved false, but the worry was there all the same – it would have cut the firehouse off from the rest of the community.
The irony wasn’t lost on the firemen that the driest spot in town stood across the bridge on Gulf Road – the open field where they still hope taxpayers will allow them to build a new firehouse.
Even if the rivers had risen, the spot would have remained dry. The rivers, of course, were high but not a problem.
“We’re not getting any damage from the Willowemoc or the Beaverkill,” Wood explained. “It’s all the little tributaries that are causing the damage.”
Town of Rockland Supervisor Pat Casey concurred – Livingston Manor which has suffered heavily in recent years survived this week unscathed.
The National Weather Service has estimated that 8 inches of rain fell in the Roscoe and Town of Colchester area since Tuesday.
Still, the damage was nothing like that of last year’s flash flood in Colchester – the remnants of which were finally repaired earlier this year.
Steve Finch, deputy director of emergency management for Delaware County, said the damage in his county was limited for the most part to the towns of Colchester and Andes.
Route 206 is expected to remain closed for at least two weeks, he said.
sullivan roads open
In Sullivan County the only county road that remains closed is that which connects Roscoe to Tennanah Lake. The Department of Public Works was on the scene both Wednesday night and Thursday trying to make it passable once again. At press time, Meyer expected they’d have the job done by nightfall yesterday.
The Roscoe firemen were assisted by volunteers from Callicoon Center, Hankins-Fremont Center and Livingston Manor fire departments and the Roscoe ambulance corps, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Police and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re numb,” said Roscoe’s First Assistant Chief Keith Travers. “It’s just what we do – you call us out, and we’ll be there for you.
“No matter what kind of call it is, we’ll be there for you.”

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