By Dan Hust
CLARYVILLE Once again, the Halls Mills Covered Bridge in Claryville narrowly escaped destruction.
The September 18-19 rains which inundated Livingston Manor also hit Claryville, swelling the Neversink River higher than even last year’s Hurricane Irene-induced flooding.
“It was worse than Irene,” affirmed Neversink Town Supervisor Mark McCarthy, noting a Grahamsville rain gauge logged an incredible nine inches of rainfall. “A mountain of water came down through.”
Hunter and Blue Hill roads in the vicinity of Halls Mills were the hardest-hit, he said, with an eight-feet-tall gravel bar deposited along one section of Blue Hill Road.
The current Hunter Road bridge saw the Neversink sweep over its deck, while just downstream, the 100-year-old covered bridge lost even more of the pier that was washed away during last year’s epic storm.
“But it’s still standing,” McCarthy said.
The county was already repairing and restoring the historic bridge, and Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew indicated the latest damage won’t slow that effort down.
As far as town roads (which are all passable), McCarthy estimated Neversink faces $40,000-$60,000 in repairs, which the township’s finances can absorb.
Not so fortunate was the Town of Denning, just over the Ulster County line, which bisects Claryville.
“Almost every one of those roads they fixed got wiped out again,” said McCarthy.
“It’ll probably be several weeks before it’s back to normal,” acknowledged Denning Highway Superintendent Daniel Van Saders.
While all the town roads are now open (thanks to some help from the Town of Neversink, as well), Van Saders estimated the damage will ultimately cost Denning around $100,000 an enormous sum in a township with about 550 year-round residents.
And since the overall flooding in the state from this storm won’t likely top the federal threshold for emergency aid, Denning will probably have to pay for it all on its own just a year after borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix roads in the wake of Irene.
Ulster County, too, is assessing its options after County Route 47 known as Frost Valley Road completely disappeared under the raging Neversink yet again.
The only access to the popular Frost Valley YMCA, Route 47 “got wiped out right back to the rock ledges again,” said McCarthy.
For about two days, travel to the YMCA from Sullivan County was cut off, affirmed Frost Valley’s CEO, Jerry Huncosky.
Unlike Irene last year, this storm did not wash out 47 north of the Y, allowing travel to and from NYS Route 28 in Big Indian.
And instead of losing a building, the YMCA just saw stream erosion this round though Huncosky said such erosion is still a concern.
He added that the September rainfall was faster and harder than Irene’s.
“I think we got more rain in a shorter amount of time than expected,” he assessed.
Nevertheless, Frost Valley YMCA is fully operational, and traffic is being allowed to use the one lane of Route 47 that has been restored.
But whether Ulster County is going to put money into fully repairing Route 47 for the second year in a row is uncertain.
“We’re still in the recovery assessment phase,” said Deputy County Executive Bob Sudlow, noting that two Irene-caused repair projects remain under way in other parts of Ulster County.
Though firm numbers weren’t available, Sudlow said the county had spent a “substantial” sum to literally rebuild Route 47 after Irene took it down last year and obviously that effort didn’t prevent yet another complete washout.
So the county is seeking funding to hire engineers specializing in hydrogeology to see what can be done.
“We have to look at a permanent, long-lasting solution,” said Sudlow.
For now, that section of Route 47 just north of the Sullivan County border officially remains closed.
Travellers might want to seek an alternate route, even though such detours may add an hour or more to their trip.
“We’re letting vehicles go by selectively,” Sudlow explained.