Penn Yan estimates millions in damage
YATES COUNTY—Yates County has officially moved out of the responding phase and into the recovery phase after last week’s flash flooding. County Chairman Tim Dennis said the county still faces several safety issues with its roadways while residents and business owners are faced with repairing the damage done to their properties. He said despite receiving aid from the state, it will be a significant period of time before the county fully recovers from the disaster.
“The recovery is going to probably be years before it is all completely done,” Dennis said.
Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC) Chief Executive Officer Steve Griffin said his initial estimate for damaged businesses is “at least 50,” adding the damage estimates from “just a handful of those businesses” could total more than $3 million. The Arc of Yates suffered extensive damage throughout both days of flooding, with Executive Director Kate Ring saying the damage to that building is more than $500,000.
On the residential side, Keuka Housing Council Executive Director Renee Bloom said the preliminary estimate includes about 250 homes were affected, with 15 houses suffering enough foundation damage to be condemned, or will soon be condemned. She said what she has seen so far indicates a lot of damage including furnaces and hot water heaters.
Dennis said the damage assessment is still ongoing throughout the county. He said while Penn Yan and Jerusalem were some of the hardest hit areas, there are still other places in the northern part of the county that also suffered some flood damage.
Dennis said the rain totals for both the Tuesday, May 13 and Friday, May 16 storms throughout the county have been “all over the place,” totaling anywhere between five to nine inches. Climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center Samantha Borisoff said the Penn Yan Airport reported 2.86 inches of rain during the Tuesday night storm in just a few hours. She said while the airport may not have gotten as much rain as other areas of the village or county, it still registered the county’s total monthly average for precipitation in just a few hours.
“Penn Yan got about a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours,” Borisoff said.
Borisoff said the recent flooding events differ from the flood of 1972 which ravaged the Twin Tiers region in June of that year. She said the flood of ‘72 was a result of Hurricane Agnes and had consistent, larger quantities of rain over a three day period, causing the water to rise more steadily. Borisoff said the recent storm was more unexpected, as the rain came so hard and so fast it was unable to soak into the ground properly, resulting in flash flooding. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 10 other recorded flash flooding events in Yates County since the flood of ‘72. Borisoff said the Tuesday night storm was only the fifth highest recorded single-day precipitation since the flood of ’72.
Dennis agreed, saying the recent events differed from the flood of ‘72 in that it was more unexpected, where people could see the rain coming in 1972. He said while he did not live in Yates County at the time, Dennis said he experienced the flood of ‘72 in Maryland. Dennis said with the recent storms, there was little to no time to prepare for the downpour.
“It wasn’t as if we had two days to get ready for it,” Dennis said. “We woke up in the morning or the middle of the night [...] the first calls started coming in at 8:54 Tuesday night for power lines down. From then until Saturday the 911 center handled over 2,000 calls.”
Dennis said there are going to be after effects from the storm for a long time. He said the lake levels will be high, there will be debris in the lake and the highways will need repair. Dennis said the personal loss for residents and businesses will also take some time to recover.
“We just don’t know exactly what the impact is going to be yet,” Dennis said.
Despite the damage, Dennis commended the work of the county’s first responders in the way they were able to work together to handle the situation.
“It’s pretty amazing what the power of water and the power of nature [can do], but what is just as amazing is the resiliency of our population,” Dennis said.
Village and town officials held an informational meeting Monday, May 19 at the Penn Yan middle school to help direct flood victims. The following contacts were mentioned:
For homeowners: Keuka Housing Council, 160 Main St., Penn Yan, 315-536-8707, www.keukahousingcouncil.org, (emergency repairs, temporary housing, grants and low interest loans).
• The Living Well, memorial building at the Methodist Church, 168 Main St., Penn Yan, 315-521-6833, www.pyumcd.org/thelivingwell, (flood cleanup, volunteer coordination, referrals to other services).
For business owners: Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, 1 Keuka Business Park, Penn Yan, 315-536-7328, www.fingerlakesedc.com, (0 percent loans available).
Residents and businesses can make a donation to help with Yates County flood relief. There are a number of different options. The following organizations guarantee the donated money will be used locally only:
• Penn Yan Flood Relief Fund — Donations to this effort are being accepted by the offices of the Bank of the Finger Lakes, Lyons National Bank, The Observer, the Chronicle Express and the Finger Lakes Times. Proceeds from this fund will be used to assist businesses and individuals affected by the flood, coordinated by a local panel.
• The Living Well — This organization has temporary headquarters in the memorial building next to the Penn Yan Methodist Church. They are providing grocery and personal items to persons affected by the flood. Monetary donations can be dropped there or mailed to the Living Well, 121 East Elm St., Penn Yan, N.Y., 14527.
• Yates Community Endowment Disaster Relief Fund — The Yates Community Endowment has been offered a $15,000 challenge grant by the Nord Foundation. When complete, the $30,000 will be given to the Keuka Housing Council to aid in housing issues related to the floods. Donations can be mailed to the Community Foundation, Attn: Joy Benson, 500 East Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14607.