Schuyler County flooding recovery efforts are continuing
SCHUYLER COUNTY--Schuyler County experienced eight inches or more of rainfall Tuesday, Aug. 14, causing creeks to overflow and some major roadways to be overrun with water. People and animals were relocated as homes and buildings were flooded with rain water.
Following the county sheriff's warning not to call 911 for non-emergencies Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Schuyler County, along with 13 other counties in the Finger Lakes. As the recovery began, New York State Emergency Operations Center began to work at level three, or "enhanced monitoring" from state agencies who provided "additional personnel to assist with logistics, transport and technical rescue."
"The county of Schuyler and town of Hector have requested and received assistance from several New York state resources to include but not limited to New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Incident Management Team, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Park Police, New York State Police, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Corrections," according to a press release by Bill Kennedy, Schuyler County Emergency Manager. "Those agencies have been clearing roads and removing debris from the roads and lake. The debris on the lake will be put onto barges and shipped out to be chipped and/or destroyed."
The National Guard deployed 50 personnel and staged an additional 150 people for deployment to assist local governments with debris removal and cleanup in the region. Damage assessment teams specializing in engineering and structural assessments from the Department of Transportation will be operating in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions to evaluate roads, bridges and other infrastructure for damage and safety concerns.
The department of environmental conservation is stationed at the Valois Logan Hector Volunteer Fire Co. to aid local clean up efforts.
Steve Hauck, spokesperson for the State Incident Management Team, said recovery efforts began immediately with 12-hour days since. Usually the clean up by local agencies comes before involvement by the department of environmental conservation, Hauck said.
"Many times you have the clean-up and then the environmental police, if you will, have to step in after the fact," said Brian Gardner, deputy coordinator of emergency services. "This is unique because they're actually here while that's going on, so if there's an environmental issue that arises, they're on hand."
Hauck said it's difficult to tell how much longer recovery will take. However, personnel will stay posted at the Hector fire department until the job is done.
As state and local officials began flood recovery efforts Thursday, Aug. 16, Schuyler County issued a boil water advisory for the village of Watkins Glen and the towns of Dix and Reading, after contamination was reported in drinking water.
For drinking, making ice, preparing food, washing dishes and brushing teeth, residents were advised to bring water to boil, boil for one minute and cool before using. Alternatively, they could use bottled water certified for sale by the New York State Department of Health.
Water turbidity prompted New York State Department of Health and Schuyler County to deny the permit required to host Phish's music festival "Curveball" at Watkins Glen International.
Areas surrounding Seneca Lake suffered the most destruction, with some people even losing their homes temporarily or completely. For those who lost their homes due to flooding, support came in the from the Red Cross, who opened up shelters in Watkins Glen high school, Harpursville Baptist and Ovid Federated Church.
Brad Stephens, one of the owners of H.L. Stephens, a furniture store in Montour Falls, noticed the water rising in the creek around his house early Tuesday morning. When he checked on the store at 7 a.m. and met Kyle Stephens, the backyard dumpsters were submerged in water.
When they went inside the store, they were relieved to find only the mattress section had been submerged in water. Kyle Stephens has devoted the days since to transporting items to their warehouse with help from the local fire department and family friends to let contractors begin the renovation process.
"This weekend we were able to run a big sale, and that allowed us to clear out some of the inventory and help out some of the other people who were affected by the flooding," Stephens said.
Catharine Creek overflowed with rainwater, flooding surrounding areas in Montour Falls, like the Marina. The Schuyler County Humane society successfully evacuated 35 cats from a flooded cat house with help from Dundee Fire and Rescue, who took the cats to the main shelter.
The shelter has been accepting donations to help repair the damage and has also had volunteers help with the cleanup.