By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY Long Eddy Fire Dept. Assistant Chief Pam Wayne stopped at a fellow volunteer’s house Sunday afternoon to pick her up en route to a call.
Suddenly her windshield shattered, the cabin of her 2001 GMC Sonoma crumpling around her.
A massive maple tree had been uprooted by the wind, unable to maintain its footing in the soaked soil, and fell directly onto Wayne’s pickup.
“All of a sudden, BOOM! It was in my lap,” Wayne recalled yesterday. “I had no warning.”
Incredibly, she emerged from the wreckage with only cuts and bruises.
“I just have glass I’m still pulling out, that’s it,” she related matter-of-factly.
Her fellow firefighters said she was “damn lucky” a term that could be applied to all of Sullivan County.
Though smacked hard by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, the county survived a Sunday full of raging floodwaters, widespread power outages, and hundreds of fallen trees.
“Thank God we didn’t have any loss of life or major injuries that I’m aware of,” County Public Safety Commissioner Richard Martinkovic said yesterday morning.
Still, more than five inches of rainfall followed by winds gusting up to 60 MPH exacted a heavy toll on local roads, properties and utilities.
“We did lose 911 for a while,” said Martinkovic, who with reps from a dozen other state and local agencies had manned the county’s Emergency Operations Center in White Lake throughout Irene’s passage sometimes with the aid of four generators.
“Verizon had a central office equipment failure in Monticello,” he explained, forcing half the 911 dispatch crew from its headquarters at the county airport over to the State Police barracks in Liberty.
Backup systems came online and kept 911 in intermittent service, said Martinkovic, though he lamented how many calls were non-emergencies.
“911 is not an information number,” he stated. “It’s to report an emergency.”
211 is the appropriate number to call for information on closures, traffic conditions and other valuable info.
Dispatchers at 911 certainly had enough to do already, as did the county’s Division of Public Works (DPW) employees.
According to County Manager David Fanslau, 23 county roads had flood damage, spanning every part of Sullivan County.
The hardest-hit, he said, were county routes 19 in Claryville, 55 in Mountaindale, 153 in Sundown and 163 in Yankee Lake.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has put the county under a disaster declaration, leading Fanslau to hope that some financial aid will be coming this way to help repair damaged infrastructure.
In the meantime, DPW has been and remains out in the field further assessing damages.
“Our DPW crews did an extraordinary job responding to the need,” Fanslau remarked.
Major rivers and their tributaries reached or exceeded flood stage as Sunday progressed, both from local rains and the much harder hit Delaware and Ulster counties to the north.
The Delaware, as measured in Callicoon, hit 12.9 feet in depth at 11 p.m. Sunday, nearly a foot above flood stage; while downriver at Barryville, it measured 16.6 feet at 2:15 a.m. yesterday, just below the 17-foot flood stage.
The Mongaup River overflowed its banks near Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, temporarily shutting down the county road that accesses the hospital.
“At one point, we had to divert ambulances to Orange County,” Martinkovic said.
The Neversink River briefly reached major flood stage at 6 p.m. Sunday as measured at the Neversink Reservoir but was falling out of flood levels as yesterday progressed.
Indeed, all the rivers and streams were slowly calming down yesterday, allowing evacuated residents to return if only to plenty of cleanup duties.
Power, however, still was out for thousands. At midday yesterday, NYSEG reported more than 12,000 outages in Sullivan County, Central Hudson nearly 2,000, and Orange & Rockland 8,500 with indefinite estimates as to when electricity and other utilities would be restored.
Overall, however, both Martinkovic and Fanslau seemed relieved.
“We fared very well compared to other localities in the Hudson Valley,” said Fanslau, who first served the public as a 911 dispatcher in southern New Jersey during Hurricane Gloria. “It could have been a lot worse.”
“I expected it to be worse,” admitted Martinkovic. “I think we were spared some of the highest winds.
“We did have one structure fire in Jeffersonville, but they got it out,” he added. “I’m very proud of everyone’s participation and support.”
Volunteer responders are now needed in neighboring counties, he said, and will be dispatched as soon as Sullivan’s issues are resolved.
Supervisors report in
By Dan Hust and Frank Rizzo
SULLIVAN COUNTY Here’s a roundup of how selected Sullivan County townships made out during Hurricane Irene.
Town of Fremont Supervisor James Greier and Tusten Supervisor Margaret Harrison could not be reached for comment.
Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm was working yesterday on getting dry ice to locations around White Lake, where about 1,400 people remained without power.
Other than that, he said Irene spared the town the kinds of problems it gave neighboring townships.
“We fared well,” he said.
Preparation and coordination were the keys to keeping damage minimal, according to Supervisor Tom Bose.
The town cleared some debris on the banks of both Panther Rock Creek and the East Branch of the Callicoon Creek.
With the cooperation of the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, the town hired a contractor to remove some of the build up gravel and sand in the Callicoon Creek behind the Youngsville School. This is crucial, he noted, in remediating two flood-prone areas.
Bose said residents were evacuated from Jeffersonville and Youngsville, and the Jeffersonville Ambulance Corps transported some seniors to a shelter at the Jeff-Youngsville campus.
“I don’t know what we’d do without the volunteers,” Bose said. “They’re always huge in an emergency.”
Bose is hopeful that getting Sullivan named in FEMA disaster declaration will make it easier to recover some of the funds expended over the weekend.
“As of now no roads are closed but we are urging everyone to be cautious,” said Bose yesterday morning.
Councilman Harold Roeder Jr. was filling in for Supervisor Jim Scheutzow, away on vacation.
“We were very, very fortunate,” said Roeder. “Nothing major happened.”
There was the usual flooding near the Diehl Farm on Route 52A, but Kohlertown, another flood-prone area, was spared this time.
And in Callicoon, deepening the overflow channel between the Callicoon Creek and Delaware River helped a lot, said Roeder.
R&H Gorr Excavating spent two days digging up the channel.
“We are blessed. When you look at what happened in Margaretville…” said Roeder.
“In the grand scheme of things we are blessed,” said Supervisor Steve Vegliante. “I’m not aware of any loss of life or major equipment damaged.”
There were issues at some of the sewer pump stations, he said, and a dam at Mountaindale Park is being assessed. Water overflow there did some major road damage and even stranded some seasonal campers for most of the day.
“The Town of Fallsburg [emergency and public services] are an amazing group of people,” said Vegliante. “They all worked together flawlessly and deserve to be commended.”
Supervisor James Galligan was not available.
“We just have spotty power outages,” said Town Clerk Joanne Nagoda. “We didn’t suffer any substantial damages.”
Supervisor Harold Baird said a Bloomingburg house on memory Lane Rd. by Shawangunk Kills was surrounded by water, and the Bloomingburg Fire Department called in Rock Hill FD, which has a boat, for the recuse.
In addition, a bridge on Pine Kill Rd. in Westbrookville suffered adjoining road damage and is closed for repairs.
“We still have a good percentage of our people without power,” Baird said. “We’re in touch with [Orange & Rockland Utilities] to set up a dry ice distribution center at town hall [in Wurtsboro].”
On Sunday, about 70 people, mainly from over the border in Ulster County, were evacuated to the town hall, Baird said.
“We still have over 500 people without power,” said Supervisor Andrew Boyar. “It’s a big problem. I’m concerned that NYSEG has not made dry ice available… Our County Manager David Fanslau is working on getting a distribution center going.
Aside from “the usual trees down,” Boyar said there was no flooding problems.
“The constables and highway crews are out… they’re well on top of [the situation],” said Boyar.
“Liberty sits high enough, so as far as water damage we did well,” said Supervisor John Schmidt. “We didn’t receive any calls for evacuating people.”
Schmidt praised the work of his highway and water and sewer departments.
“The sewer plant took more water than it should have, but the [plant operators] took care of everything,” said Schmidt. “There was no infiltration of the water supply and the storm water retention ponds picked up the overflow.”
“We weathered the storm very well, thank goodness,” said Supervisor Greg Goldstein.
What did not make out well was the Thomas Mitchell Little League complex on Sundown Road north of Grahamsville. The four-field complex sits on land leased from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and is north of the Rondout Reservoir abutting the Rondout Creek.
“The water moved the fences and the buildings,” said Goldstein. “It’s not worth trying to replace. It’s a devastating loss. I feel so bad for Tommy, he put so much work into the complex.”
Livingston Manor’s Main and Pearl Streets are notoriously flood prone, but according to Supervisor Ed Weitmann this time “the flooding was minimal.… it didn’t do much damage. There was an incredible amount of water, but it did not flood as in the past.”
The town started evacuating people early Sunday morning as a precaution and shelters were set up at the town hall in Manor, the Roscoe Central School, the Grooville Church and the Livingston Manor Presbyterian Church.
“We had a real good response from our highway and emergency departments,” said Weitmann. “We’re a real good team up here.”
Mindful of his townships recurring problems with flooding, Weitmann said, “We planned for the worst.”
As of Sunday night, 943 residents were without power in his township, said Supervisor Tony Cellini.
“We’ve had problems, especially along the Neversink River,” said Cellini. “There was extensive damage at Holiday Mountain, both from the Neversink and the runoff from Katrina Falls Rd.”
In addition, the Burger King on Route 42 suffered some damage from an adjoining creek.