By Eli Ruiz
LIVINGSTON MANOR The torrential rains that dropped nearly six inches in parts of Sullivan County left a trail of destruction in their wake and a state of emergency was declared in this Town of Rockland hamlet Tuesday evening.
Though severe thunderstorms prompted tornado watches and flash flood warnings throughout the region, the Manor as it’s known in this neck suffered by far the most damage from Tuesday’s day-long rains.
By Wednesday morning school buses and general traffic were allowed back on the seven county roads that had been shut down the night prior, but as has been the case all too often in recent years, many Livingston Manor residents and business owners were left to pick up the mess left behind after another flood.
Crews could be seen along Main Street and Shandelee Road where most of the damage was concentrated pumping water out of flooded basements while business owners shoveled silt and mud from their establishments.
“We had 18 inches of water right here,” said Craig Verona, owner of Verona Oil, as he hosed away the slippery mud that covered the pavement outside his Sunoco Country Store on the corner of Main and Pearl Streets. “I’ve seen worse out here, though,” he added.
Maria Grimaldi of Main Street Farm said, “I thought it’d be fine, but after we closed it just got worse… it was as bad as a few years ago when we lost that poor girl.”
Jamie Bertholf, 15, died in the June 2006 flood.
Grimaldi said that more than a foot of water had infiltrated the artisan grocery store but stressed that unlike neighboring businesses they were able to avoid “any real mess.”
Indeed, nearby Beth’s Headquarters and Johnny’s Barbershop had the entire contents of their respective businesses out on the front sidewalk. “Been here since early this morning cleaning up all the brown silt that got in here, there was a lot,” said Johnny, owner of Johnny’s Barbershop who asked that his last name not be used. “I’ve been through this more than 15 times since 1969 when I came here. In 2006 there were 34 inches of water in here.”
Further up Main Street, which turns into Shandelee Road, Bob Simpson could be seen shoveling the thick layer of mud and silt from his mother’s driveway onto a three foot mound of the stuff.
“I live up the road in Shandelee and it wasn’t so bad up there. Different story down here, just sad,” said Simpson as he tossed another shovel full onto the heap.
Even further up the road, past all of the raised asphalt and ruined driveways, a large oil tank could be seen haphazardly placed in the middle of someone’s lawn. People’s personal belongings golf clubs, a dish drainer, a few socket wrenches and some toys could be seen strewn about until you reach a group of people assembled near a tow truck from Prestige Towing of Monticello on the banks of Cattail Creek. As you get closer to the group you notice a tire protruding at an odd angle from the still raging and dangerously high waters. It’s Ted Baer’s 1991 Corvette. The vehicle now rests on its backside in the water, 500 yards away from where it sat the evening before in Baer’s garage, which was also swept away by the floodwaters.
“The car was in mint condition.… He [Baer] washed it every week and he named her Cleo,” said Baer’s next-door neighbor David Misner.
“In 20 years’ time there won’t be a Livingston Manor,” says Fred Dumond, one of the onlookers. “They do studies and it costs everyone money, but nothing ever gets done. We’re living in a fishbowl. It’s like tossing a bowl into a bathtub every time it rains like this . . . This one caught everyone by surprise. No one knew this was coming.”
Veronica Plainer, who also lives just up the road, spoke about the speed with which the normally calm Cattail spilled over. “It was insane. I mean this thing [Cattail Creek] boiled over in about five minutes and no one had time to get out or grab anything,” she explained.
The vehicle is eventually pulled out of the water destroyed from its bumpy trip down-creek and the small crowd scatters.
In an interview with the Democrat, Town of Rockland Supervisor Ed Weitmann expressed his frustration.
“We’ve got a bunch of infrastructure damage, we’ve got a bunch of property damage to homes and stuff… when you get six inches of rain and you have such a limited creek-bed, it’s [the water] gonna go somewhere and we’re not gonna dig some Grand Canyon through there. We’re not gonna tear down the houses.”
Weitmann added, “I feel really bad and I’ve gone through this more times than I want, but when the bridges get plugged up like that there’s just nothing we can do.… there were guys up there with town equipment trying to open up holes [in the debris], but it just reached a point where it’s just not worth risking their lives.”
Asked about the work the Army Corps of Engineers has done in and around the area Weitman explained, “They’ve just been working on a study… but [it’s] concentrated on the Little Beaverkill and has nothing to do with the Cattail. It’s focused on the Little Beaverkill and the Willowemoc… [the] study is a long term thing and [the Corps] were actually here last Thursday. I have three booklets related to the studies and they present different scenarios which give us a nice framework to work with, but nothing’s been done yet… it can be a couple of years.”
He added, “I just don’t have a solution, to be honest with you. We have a confluence of three streams here and there’s just too much damage on those banks, they’re just very badly scarred, a lot of those banks are just nothing but mud.… I wish I had some for this but most importantly there were no injuries or loss of life, we started evacuating a little after 4pm. and we had the Presbyterian church open as a shelter, but when water comes up like that the town is basically cut off, so we had some people over at the firehouse . . . then there’s the people on the other side of the creek who can’t get over because we have three badly damaged bridges right now.”easy fixes…”
Weitmann commended the three fire departments within the Town of Rockland as well as Town Highway Superintendent Ted Hartling for the response to the flooding, saying, “These guys did a remarkable job considering the circumstances. All three fire departments have been out since last night and I think they started up again at 6 a.m. I just can’t say enough. We evacuated anybody who needed to get out. Most importantly, there were no injuries or loss of life. We started evacuating a little after 4 p.m. and we had the Presbyterian church open as a shelter. But when water comes up like that the town is basically cut off, so we had some people over at the firehouse… then there’s the people on the other side of the creek who can’t get over because we have three badly damaged bridges right now.”
As the residents of Livingston Manor continue to clean up the mess left behind by the flood and those affected try to salvage what they can, perhaps Maria Grimaldi put it best.
“We have these gorgeous waterways here that we all enjoy for the most part, but then they just turn on us… they become the devil,” she said.