The town of Stark is “a total disaster” after the devastating floods that struck early Friday, according to Richard Bronner, town supervisor.
As for the community of Van Hornesville itself, “this would equal Schoharie,” said Bronner, referring to the floods that devastated that community in August 2011. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.” He said the community saw flood damage in 2010 and 2006. “That was bad, but this is much worse.”
Anything that stood along the Otsquago Creek that runs through Van Hornesville and along state Route 80 into Starkville and on into Montgomery County was damaged, he said.
Houses were damaged and in at least a couple of cases, “are pretty much totally destroyed,” according to the supervisor.
He said while the buildings were still upright, the first floor of one house had dropped into the basement. “The only things the family had left were what they had upstairs.”
“Nearly every road in the town is pretty much shot,” said Bronner. Blacktop was torn up. Gravel and debris are left on roads. The centerline of a curve on Route 80 between Van Hornesville and Starkville known to local residents as “Shirttail Bend” wound up at the bottom of the creek. Pavement was backed up against the barricades. The new bridge on Route 80 sustained significant damage, he said, adding it will probably be some four to six weeks before Route 80 is open to two-way traffic again. There is currently limited local one-lane travel on the road.
The bridge on Moyer Road in the town was also damaged, “we don’t know to what extent,” Bronner said. “We were toured by county officials and the Red Cross and National Guard have been here and have brought greatly needed assistance.”
The flooding began early Friday morning as it did in valley communities. While no one had to be rescued from homes, some were blocked from leaving for a while by the water. There were some six feet of water in a local garage and the Van Hornesville Fire Department building in Van Hornesville was flooded. One man was stranded at his home for a time when his footbridge was washed away. Fortunately, Bronner said, the town highway garage and the fire department’s Station 2 in Starkville escaped damage.
“The faces on the people are getting better,” said Bronner. “On Thursday they were worried about what was going to happen. On Friday they were in disbelief. On Saturday, their faces looked blank; they didn’t known where to begin. I talked to one lady who was sitting on a porch just looking out at the pond where the park used to be.”
There were plenty of other unbelievable seeming sights as well. Vehicles were under water or mud and some were pushed out of driveways and into the middle of the street.
Page 2 of 4 - By Sunday, Bronner said, the people of the community were beginning the massive cleanup efforts. “The people got themselves together - even people from outside - helping everybody clean up,” he said. “Friends and neighbors came and they’re helping get back some semblance of normalcy.”
The American Red Cross brought lunch and dinner to Van Hornesville Monday, serving the meals at Owen D. Young Central School.
Owen D. Young School Superintendent James Picolla said the school also sustained damage with flooding to the building on the gym level and damage to the school field. He didn’t know what the cost of the damages would be.
“We’re in clean-up mode and assessment for the damages,” he said.
Bronner also had no idea about a dollar figure to put on the damage to the town, but repairs are under way.
“A lot of volunteers have brought in equipment,” he said. “The state has been very cooperative, Herkimer County as well, giving direction as to who to see and who to contact.”
Power has been restored to the area, but some people remain without electricity because of damage to their property. A boil water advisory is in effect.
Red Cross shelter
The Central New York Region of the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the First United Methodist Church of Herkimer and Little Falls, 127 N. Prospect St., Herkimer early Sunday evening for residents of the Mohawk Valley who were displaced from their homes by the flooding.
The Red Cross is prepared for up to 20 people to spend the night at the shelter and will make the necessary arrangements if more residents arrive.
Earlier Sunday, the Central New York Region closed the shelter it had opened Friday at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica because residents no longer needed to stay there.
Salvation Army meals
The Salvation Army was operating a feeding site Monday at noon at 431 N. Prospect St. and at 5 p.m. in Mohawk in the empty lot next to Family Dollar on the corner of East Main and Bellinger streets in Mohawk.
On Sunday, the Salvation Army served some 1,300 lunches and dinners in Mohawk and Herkimer, according to Christine Gray of Salvation Army Division Headquarters in Syracuse, who was reached at the Herkimer Salvation Army Monday, where about two dozen staff and volunteers who came in for the disaster operation were working. “Today we were asked to provide 1,000 meals in Mohawk because part of the village is still without power,” said Gray.
She said meals would be served today as well, probably at the East Main Street site in Mohawk. “We have a van that can hold food hot and we can serve 1,500 meals out of that van,” said Gray. “We also have three mobile feeding units driving around, two in Mohawk and one in Herkimer, distributing food and water and cleanup kits.” The cleanup kits include mops, sponges, buckets and cleaning supplies.
Page 3 of 4 - In Mohawk, power restoration was continuing, but low levels were expected for some time. Residents were asked to use power only for essential purposes such as hot water heaters, lights and refrigerators - no air conditioners.
National Grid was handing out dry ice and restoration and energy efficiency program information in Herkimer and Mohawk.
Residents were advised to separate debris to be removed by municipalities and leave it between the sidewalk and curb in front of residences. They were advised not to cover drainage grates or impede traffic. Also dumpsters should not be filled beyond capacity.
Particle masks are being supplied to residents because of the levels of dust and pollen released by the floods and may be picked up at the Herkimer and Mohawk fire stations and at the Ilion Municipal Building.
In Montgomery County, Public Health is offering a free tetanus, diptheria and pertussis and tetanus and diptheria clinic for those residents 18 and older who were affected by the flood. The clinic is scheduled for today from 1 to 3 p.m. at Dr. Govind Rao’s office, 16 Hancock St., Fort Plain.
Some state highways remain closed, according to James Piccola, Jr. of the New York State Department of Transportation, Region 2. While most closures in the area were for part of a day, five are listed as long-term closures. He said DOT officials hope to have a better idea how long they will remain closed when the water recedes and teams can complete their assessments of the damage to the highways. The roads listed as long-term closures are Route 169 from Kelly Road to North End Road, Route 168 from Columbia Street to Route 167, Route 51 from Ilion to Cedarville, Route 80 from Montgomery County to Otsego County, all in Herkimer County, and, in Montgomery County, Route 5 from Route 10 to Route 334.
Businesses as well as homes were hit by Friday’s flooding.
Among them was Aaron’s, at 548 W. State St., Herkimer, which offers furniture, appliances and electronics. “Our computers are running if people want to make payments,” said an employee who answered the phone Monday. “We’re pretty much a mess.” Contractors have been in, carpet has been removed and cleanup has begun.
Rain in forecast
While cleanup was under way in areas hit by Friday’s flooding, the National Weather Service was forecasting more rain with flash flood warnings posted in the Catskills and along the Mohawk and Susquehanna rivers Monday into today.
The National Weather Service in Albany has issued a Flash Flood Watch from 8 a.m. Monday to 8 p.m. today for 15 counties, including Hamilton, Herkimer and Montgomery. Showers and thunderstorms are expected today and rain may be heavy at times. Rainfall amounts are expected to be between 1 and 3 inches. There may be isolated rainfall amounts up to 5 inches possible.
Page 4 of 4 - “With heavy rain and possible flash flooding expected in parts of the state, I urge all New Yorkers to take extreme caution, including closely monitoring local radio and television for weather alerts and listening to the advice of local officials,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Many communities have already been hit hard by flooding, and the state is deploying every resource available to help affected areas and residents.”
Authorities say at least one woman is missing after flooding swept away her mobile home in Fort Plain last week. Police Chief Robert Thomas said Ethel Healey was unaccounted for after her mobile home was washed away by rising waters Friday.