The Coastal Hurricane

Incredible Damage

The mid-Hudson region is still reeling from this weekend’s horrendous floods, which have produced tens of millions of dollars in damage, some of the worst destruction in this area in half a century. Residents have been left standing in silt-strewn yards and waterlogged homes desperately trying to salvage their possessions. Officials have reported that it will take weeks or even months before complete repair to washed-out roads and bridges is even possible.

Volunteer Recovery Efforts

Road crews can be seen working overtime, scrambling to open once-flooded roads. American Red Cross workers across the region are tirelessly endeavoring to find motel rooms for scores of people unable to return to their homes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, 61065<which has been occupied with a mammoth terrorism drill, expects backup teams from Texas to reach local flood zones tomorrow.

Federal Disaster Relief

Officials and statesman hurry to organize some sort of help for their citizens. Gov. George Pataki has officially declared Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties disaster areas. “Just in public infrastructure alone, we’re looking at millions,” said Bruce Kirkpatrick, Ulster County’s deputy director of emergency management, “… And the human cost … How do you measure the human cost?” Officials hope to get a true measure of the devastation after state and federal disaster assessment teams tour flooded areas in two dozen counties in southern New York and western New Jersey. These assessments could guarantee federal disaster relief and allow residents to apply for low-interest loans to rebuild homes.

Severe Flooding
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Carol Clancy who normally runs the My Friends’ Place day-care center in Livingston Manor, a community in northern Sullivan County, is already thinking about the next flood. Livingston Manor, Deerpark and Ellenville are all water-rich lowlands and have flooded before. This is the second flood to hit her area in the past six months. Clancy is buying new rugs to replace the ones ruined in the day-care center, where water rose to the doorknobs. Her new rugs are dark green — “And ones that I can roll up in a hurry for the next time,” she said. In Deerpark, at the intersection of the Neversink and Delaware rivers, officials say they expect to condemn 160 homes. The floods caused at least $24 million in damage to that town alone according to an Orange County spokesman.

A Hundred Year Flood Level

The Neversink River reached the highest level recorded in Godeffroy since the U.S. Geological Survey began taking measurements there 68 years ago. The river crested just over its 100-year flood level, a measurement that federal officials set based on prior high-water years. The Neversink exceeded levels recorded in the late summer and early fall of 1955, when a potent series of hurricanes and coastal storms pounded eastern New York.

The Delaware also flooded in mid-August of that year after hurricanes Connie and Diane struck the region in a single week.

“We had five days of solid rain, the kind of rain you look at and say, ‘That can’t last for long – it’s too heavy.’ … It was so wet, the ground couldn’t hold it,” ninety-two-year-old Dorothea Solomon, who was Port Jervis’ deputy director of civil defense in those days, said, “The same thing that happened this time.”

The Delaware River in Port Jervis also came close to its 100-year flood level as determined by FEMA. The flooding was less remarkable for the Wallkill River, where waters reached 15-year flood levels. Upstream, in Sullivan County, high waters exceeding 100-year flood levels caused $16.5 million in damage to roads, bridges and other public properties.

Needless to say this weekend’s flood will not be forgotten, setting new records as well as impairing the lives of thousands.

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