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
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.

Fire Aftermath At Oakdale Adult School

After The Smoke Cleared

The three of them stood there teetering on the brink of heartbreak. Their school, their pride, and hard work in one fatal inferno had left them bereft of certainty towards the future. It was once a place where men and women could go to reconcile and rehabilitate their shaken lives. Where, that Monday afternoon, Jack Richter and Roger Ames should have been students in the middle of another day of classes. Where, that Monday afternoon, Jennifer Wilson should have been in the midst of another day at the office helping others to reach their true potential. Instead here they were staring up at the boarded up windows of blackened dreams, wondering if there would be any chance at a return to normalcy.

The Students

Roger Ames, 38, recently released for car theft has acknowledged that the neighborhood is apprehensive about the presence of “ex-cons” at the school and worries that the fire may have been “a message to get out”. However, not everyone that attends the school has a criminal past, and the vicious attack on the school demonstrates a lack of that fact as public knowledge. Jack Richter, 29, has been attending classes since last spring in attempts to receive his GED. “I dropped out when I was in high school. I was a dumb kid. This place was my second chance,” Richter said. “I hope they find it fast because I really need to join the military and start making something of my life.”

Arson or Hate Crime?

“I can appreciate Ms. Wilson’s sense of urgency, but this is a crime scene,” Oakdale Police Chief Bryant Tam said about the delayed investigation, “Unfortunately, our crime scene investigators are backed up in processing evidence from the scene, so until we know we have what we need, we can’t release the scene. It was arson, but now we need to know who is doing this.” His theories on the arsonist being a student, former student, or even a possible resident of the Oakdale community have yet to be proven but do not go unheeded.

The Woman In Charge

Jennifer Wilson, LSW and MEd, director, hasn’t let the vindictive crime completely deter her efforts to rebuild and support her students. In addition to somewhat harassing the police chief for answers, she has also moved into actively looking for another space to continue providing job, computer training, and high school equivalency courses to those in need. Since they have always seemed to have had a friendly relationship, she remains skeptical about the involvement of someone from the neighborhood in the arson, and focuses on repairing the physical and psychological damage to her school and its students.