A PUBLICATION OF THE DAILY STAR
2006 MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
The road to recovery Rebuilding after flood has challenged area
By Mark SiMonSon Contributing Writer
When water comes rushing in to your community, your homes or businesses, it has a way of etching clear memories of exactly where you were at the time the crisis struck. June 27, 2006, had that effect upon thousands across our region.
ONEONTA DAMAGED, WRECOVERED SMOOTHLY
“I remember where I was,” former Oneonta Mayor John Nader said recently about that Tuesday afternoon. “I was convening a meeting on downtown development in the community development conference room at city hall, and a member of the fire department staff came and literally pulled my chair away from the table and said the basement of this building is flooding rapidly and people should leave in an orderly fashion. Main Street is flooding, be careful, and Mayor, you’re coming to the emergency operations center with us.” State Senator James Seward was working in his Oneonta district office on South Main Street. “Silver Creek is directly below this office,” Seward recalled recently. “I could hear water rushing under the floor and an increasing amount of banging sounds, probably from tree limbs and other debris being carried by the water. When water started coming up through the carpet, I knew it was time to leave. Water was rushing down South Main Street by the time we left the building.” Nader recalled rushing to the city’s wastewater treatment facility with emergency staff on Silas Lane, where effects of flooding were quickly shutting down the plant’s operations. Department of public works employees were filling sandbags as fast as they could, but the damage had been done. No sooner had Nader and staff arrived, floodwaters were rapidly rising in Neahwa Park, and the floodgates on the dike on Neahwa Place had been closed, as the park’s millrace added to the flooding. The entourage of city officials raced to that site when there had been a false rumor that water was escaping from the gates. Former Oneonta Town Supervisor Duncan Davie was also out with local emergency officials, observing damage to reservoir
City of Oneonta Department of Public Works employee Larry Harrison uses a cellphone to report on the situation of the Silver Creek where it normally flows under Dietz Street in Oneonta. culverts, bridges and rising waters across the busy Southside business district. There had been concerns about the possibility of the dam on Wilber Lake breaking. Residents of local trailer parks were being evacuated, relocating to temporary shelter at dormitories on the SUNY Oneonta campus. Waters receded, and the time came for recovery. Nader said that during the flooding, city employees, from Common Council members to DPW workers, were “truly exemplary” in doing their jobs or assisting in any ways that they could. Very little private property was damaged, Nader said, because of the city’s previous infrastructural plans. Nader described the financial part of the recovery period as difficult, particularly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in obtaining assistance for the damage. FEMA was not as See FLOOD, Page 4
Jason Ritton of Jett Industries works at installing a new electric motor on a digester mixing pump underground in the city of Oneonta wastewater treatment plant.
Memories of the Flood: Donna Ford, Rockwells Mills By SuSan McLean contriButing Writer “That night, I hadn’t even thought about the restaurant flooding. I was too focused on my house,” Donna Ford of Rockwells Mills said of the day in June when the floods began. Ford and her family own and operate The Old Mill restaurant. The family lost the contents of their home in the flood, and the restaurant was flooded. Ford remembered that the water went up about three feet in the restaurant and at her home. Ford remembers it raining so much over a period of two or three days, but, she said, “I never, ever thought it would flood. I was just watching the rain, and it was even kinda fun, watching the river get higher. I thought the water would get really high, really close, and then it would recede, like it always did. Nobody ever expects this to happen. I get anxious now, when it rains a lot.” Ford was working at the restaurant the night the flooding started. “That night, I had a rehearsal
More flood memories, Page 3 dinner the next day, and they were from out of state, near Florida, and they called me, saying they were worried, that they saw on the news that there was a lot of flooding, and I told them not to worry about it, that the river never floods. Three hours later, the water started coming in, and I had to call them back and say, yeah, you can’t have the dinner here.” “I remember when the water went back, it was a beautiful day, sunny. It took no time at all for it to recede,” Ford said. “There was a snapping turtle and a fish in the dining room of the restaurant and a crawfish in the ladies room,” she laughed. Ford’s neighbor rents tractor trailers as storage units, and let her use a trailer in the parking lot. Ford used it to store all the dining room chairs while she gutted the interior of the restaurant. Ford was unable to stay in her home after the flood, which she
Focus on the Flood of 2016 is a special section of The Daily Star, dedicated to the spirit of resilience that has brought our communities through the past 10 years. Photos in this section are from The Daily Star’s files, unless otherwise noted.
By the Numbers, In Your Words .......................................... 2 Flood Memories ...................................... 3 Then and Now ......................................... 4 Timeline of the Flood............................ 6
Donna Ford signs paperwork as her mother, Doris, watches. The two were assisted by an American Red Cross team, including volunteer Joe Gold of Indiana. The Fords are in the living room of their home on state Route 8 in Rockwells Mills. They lost the contents of their home. They also own the attached historic Old Mill restaurant, which was flooded by the Unadilla River. said was troubling. “I had to stay with an employee for a few weeks and there was no looting or vandalism, but I was really worried about it,” Ford
said. “I didn’t like the idea of leaving my house open like that all night, while staying somewhere else. It was very stressful leaving all my belongings out in the open.”
Images of the Flood ......................... 7-10 The Five-Year Mark ................................ 11
Ford wanted to move back home as quickly as possible. “After a couple weeks, I bought an inflatable bed, and moved back home. I still had phone service, and I had a card table as a desk.” Fo r d a n d h e r m o t h e r See MEMORIES, Page 4
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
THE DAILY STAR
BY THE NUMBERS
Level, in feet, at which the Susquehanna River crested in Afton and Bainbridge, breaking the 1914 record of 23.1 feet.
People rescued in Walton by the National Guard
Inches of rain that fell locally between 7 a.m. June 27 and 7 a.m. June 28
Homes destroyed in Delaware County
National Guard troops deployed to remove debris after the flood
27.1 IN THEIR WORDS Anna Dangca, Oneonta
Crystal Crandall, Norwich
‘It’s just stagnant water. We’re not in the flood plain. I don’t understand what’s going on here.’
‘You should have seen how fast the water came up in my backyard. One minute there was nothing there, and the next there was a muddy lake.’
John Meredith, town of Walton
‘It just kept raining, and we couldn’t do anything. It’s a terrible feeling to watch roads go away and watch houses wash downstream.’
Salvation Army Maj. Joy Blanchard
‘Some people don’t have anything to go home to.’
Jessica Reynolds, Sidney
‘Mud everywhere, mold in the walls and even the smell in the air makes me want to cry.’
Christine Simmons, Treadwell
‘My neighbor and I were standing on our porch and we saw her trailer float away.’
Laurens Fire Chief Tom Brownell
‘We really were hit hard, but what stands out in my mind is how people have pulled together through this.’
Town of Franklin Supervisor Donald Smith
‘I watched them build the (East Sidney) dam as a boy. I said “We’ll never see it go over the spillway.” That is no longer true.’
THE DAILY STAR
In MeMorIaM This story is reprinted from “Flood 2006: Disaster in the Heartland.” Some families will never be able to replace what they lost in the Flood of 2006. On Wednesday, June 28, an early-morning culvert washout on Holmesville Hill Road in Norwich claimed the life of Robert R. Stockwell, 31, who lived nearby in South New Berlin. Stockwell left behind a wife and three children as well as parents, in-laws and six brothers and sisters. He was on his way to work at OSG Pharmaceuticals in Norwich when he drove into the culvert shortly after 5 a.m. Stockwell was remembered by his mother as a man who loved his family and cared about everyone he met. “He wanted everyone to be happy,” Georgia Stockwell said. “If they were down, he always tried to get them singing.” The other two deaths happened about an hour after Stockwell’s accident. A 50-foot-wide section of Interstate 88, near Exit 10 in Sidney, collapsed when a culvert
A double wreath hangs from an overpass on county Route 23 near Exit 10 of Interstate 88 on July 4. David Swingle of Waverly and Patrick O’Connell of Lisbon, Maine, were killed June 28 when a section across all four lanes of the highway collapsed into Carrs Creek.
On county Route 14 in New Lisbon, the road bed has been scoured away by the West Branch of the Otego Creek unti just one lane of asphalt remains on June 30, 2006.
washed out, and two truckers were killed when they drove into the chasm at about 6:20 a.m. David Swingle, 42, of Wave r l y wa s d r iv i n g east on his regular route between Binghamton and
body could not begin until the waters subsided, and his body was found 11 days later. O’Connell worked for a wholesale food company and was on his way to Cuba, N.Y., to pick up a load of cheese.
STORIES FROM THE FLOOD My memories of the 2006 flood event in Otsego County are of the indomitable spirit of the flood victims we served and of the unfailing manner in which all of the county agencies and nonprofit organizations worked together to bring their resources to bear. It was heartwarming to witness how connected our community became in the face of this disaster. In June 2006, as I was returning home following classes at Cornell University, I first heard the news on the car radio of the impacts of the week’s flood events across the heartland of Central New York. The sights and stench of the aftermath of the flood became more real as I traveled through Chenango County headed for my home in Morris, with many roadsides already littered with muck-colored debris from flood victims’ homes. When I returned to my office at OFO’s Violence Intervention Program I was both surprised and pleased to receive a call from the United Way inviting me to serve as disaster recovery coordinator for Otsego County. Having had years of experience in disaster services following flood and hurricane events in Florida, I jumped at the opportunity. Over the course of the next 18 months, it was my privilege to meet so many of Otsego County’s incredible people—both the responders and the victims — with my assigned territory covering all of Otsego County, from Richfield Springs to Unadilla, and everything in between. At the table of the initial meeting of the County’s COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) were representatives from the county’s Emergency Services, D.S.S. and Community Services, the United Way, the Mental Health Association in Ulster County, county and state departments of health, Office for the Aging, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Opportunities for Otsego, Otsego Rural Housing, Catholic Charities and a host of other area social service and church organizations, along with the Federal Emergency Management liaison from FEMA Region II. Red Cross had been operating emergency shelters at schools, while Salvation Army’s canteens delivered food to victims. United Way was designated as the receiving point for disaster relief financial contributions in order to build a war chest to be tapped at a later date as “unmet needs” were identified. FEMA Disaster Application Centers (DAC’s) were quickly opened in order to verify flood damage and provide financial assistance to those in need. If the federal awards were slow to be issued, it often became
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MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
necessary for me to intervene on behalf of a victim. There are countless stories to be told, a myriad of images thrust upon my brain as I traveled throughout the county, assessing both the damage to homes and properties and the impacts of the event upon the well-being of each victim. Adversity, it’s been said, often builds strengths. In disaster work we were told that a victim’s coping mechanism can become either adaptive or, sadly in some cases, maladaptive. I reflect often on that period of my work in Otsego County and must honestly say that the strengths and resourcefulness of the people I met along the way were truly remarkable. I encountered people of all ages — each of whom had suffered significant loss as the result of the floods. While there was tragic loss of life caused by the floods in neighboring Sidney and South New Berlin, there was widespread damage to the infrastructure throughout Otsego County, with homes inundated with flood waters, roads and bridges washed out, and crops and farm equipment lost. Even Catholic Charities headquarters was impacted — driven by rising floodwaters from their former offices at South Main Street in Oneonta. My assigned role in the recovery efforts was twofold: to coordinate the community organizations and churches aiding in flood recovery efforts and to provide casework and counseling for the flood victims. In Otsego, as in neighboring counties, people of every age and social status were affected, and in many instances their basements had been flooded, destroying furnaces, hot water heaters and well treatment systems. Others along the Susquehanna River had floodwaters as high as the second floor of their homes. One such family in Otego was later victimized by a contractor who absconded with their flood relief award money. The contractor was brought up on charges by the state attorney general’s office, once it was confirmed that the contractor had victimized others in the county as well — the benchmark that triggered the attorney general’s involvement. A Richfield Springs resident whose home was declared uninhabitable following the floods took to living in a tent in his woods. As one of a handful of disaster caseworkers in the county, I recall sitting alongside him on a log in the woods to discuss his needs — both financial and emotional. Since he had no phone, my method of contacting him was to stand at the edge of the woods and shout his name. Another nearby victim whose home had been See STORIES, Page 4
Massachusetts hauling mail for M&K Leasing in Binghamton when the accident occurred. His body was recovered that day. Swingle’s wife, Arlene, remembered him as an “all-around wonderful man,” the kind of person who
could walk into a room full of strangers and come out with a room full of friends. The truck driven by Patrick L. O’Connell, 55, of Lisbon, Maine, was heading west when it went into the chasm. The search for his
The day after O’Connell’s funeral, his brother was still struggling to accept the loss. “The reality hasn’t set in,” said Daniel O’Connell, of Harpswell, Maine. “I still have it in my head that he is around.”
Memories of the Flood
Liz Callahan, East Meredith By SuSan McLean Contributing Writer
Liz Callahan, director of Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, remembers waiting for morning’s light to see what kind of damage had been done at the historic museum site. “The bulk of the flooding was during the night, and of course, we were under a state of emergency, so there wasn’t much to be done,” Kelsey explained. “When the flood hit, most of the damage affected the mill building itself, but there was extensive erosion across the site.” Callahan said they were very aware of the potential of high waters and had battened down the hatches, taking precautions to keep artifacts safe, but once the water started rising, there was nothing to do until it was over. “Nothing was lost, none of our machinery or structures were damaged beyond repair. There was no stability damage, just loads of silt and debris.Some tool handles had washed away, but most were found and able to be saved.” Callahan said. And, Callahan explained, cleaning up after the flood was particularly complicated, given the historic nature of the museum structures. “The mill building was over 150 years old at this point, and it took a lot of conservation work and debris removal to clean
Liz Callahan, executive director of the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith, looks over damage to the tail race wall of the mill building, which houses a grist and saw mill. Debris from stone walls lies in the foreground after workers pulled it from the race. it out and bring it back to operation,” Callahan explained. “From day one, as soon as it was safe to be back on the site, a day after the flooding, we were out there cleaning.” In the cleanup process, one of the most important things was making sure that everything was structurally stable, and that the support beams were intact, Callahan said. “Like any other flood clean up, you have to get the mud, silt, debris, off the building as soon as possible, but in a historic structure like this, you want to leave as much of the building as
possible, where in a modern building it would be easier to remove the parts of the building that are most damaged.” Callahan explained. Th e b u i l d i n g wa s designed to be at water level, and have water course through it, Callahan said, but she explained that there was a lot of water, as well as debris, even in places that weren’t supposed to be wet. “It was really backbreaking work,” Callahan explained. “We attacked and attacked and attacked everywhere there was damage.” Th o u g h t h e d a m ag e was devastating, Callahan explained one upside of the
damage to the historic site. “In 1996, the current blacksmith shop, the one damaged in the flooding, was found after flood waters disrupted the site. In 2006, the flooding exposed an earlier blacksmith shop, that we had known about through records, but the flooding provided us with a c tu a l a r c h a e o l o g i c a l proof.” Callahan called in the expertise of a millwright, friends, engineers, and even other local curators who understood the process of restoring objects after a disaster. This variety of specialists was combined with plenty of volunteers and the mill was reopened to the public around July 20. “Summer is an important time for us. We had to cancel our annual Fourth of July celebration, but people came to volunteer instead.” Throughout the summer and fall of 2006, the museum received help from FEMA, and throughout the restoration process, as many as 80 volunteers put in near 1,000 hours of labor to get the museum back in shape, Callahan said. Calling the support of the community was “baffling,” Callahan noted that friends and neighbors did everything they could to help. “At Hanford Mills, we are all about the power of water, as a solid, as a liquid, as a gas, and the power to do good,” Callahan explained. “This was a lesson of that power left uncontrolled.”
Memories of the Flood
Caren Kelsey Shortly after the flood of 2006, Caren Kelsey was wading through water outside her home in Hartwick to rescue potted plants from her yard. “There was water all around my house,” Kelsey remembered. Kelsey’s neighbor called her early in the morning and she was able to get her car up to higher ground, but that was all she was able to do until it was over. In the house, all the insulation was ruined; she had to rip it out and replace it. “We filled 56 bags with it all,” she recalled. All the carpet was ruined, and along with replacing all the insulation, she had to replace all the floors. “I just remember there being lots of mud,” Kelsey said. “And throwing out everything. I even lost lawn mowers.” Kelsey had a shed in her backyard that was halfway full of water, and almost everything out there was ruined. “I probably had over $10,000 in damages,” Kelsey estimated. But the damages were not
Caren Kelsey walks across her yard with a potted geranium she found under water on her lawn on West Main Street in Hartwick in 2006. all calculated in dollars and cents. Kelsey also lost sentimental items, she said. “I lost a lot of photos and ribbons I had won, things that couldn’t be replaced.” Kelsey said. Kelsey said that a lot of her friends and neighbors had similar, if not worse, stories. “Everyone had water problems, electrical problems,” Kelsey explained. “Most people around
m e h av e b a s e m e n t s , but I don’t. They all lost everything down there — freezers, water tanks, all that.” One of Kelsey’s neighbors was trapped in their basement, checking the foundation, and had to be rescued by rope. “The town, and everyone, tried very hard to accommodate what they could,” Kelsey remembered. “There was bottled water and dry
ice. FEMA and insurance helped, but I didn’t have flood insurance because I wasn’t in a flood zone, so I just had to buck up and deal with the rest of the damage.” Kelsey said she is more prepared now. “I don’t store anything under the house, and I store the binders with my photos up higher now.” And, she added, “I have flood insurance now.”
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
THE DAILY STAR
arrangement continued for six days until a generator could be brought to the Main Street radio studios. The same arrangement had to be used in 2011, but Stevens said station staff was better prepared from the 2006 disaster. Recovery and rebuilding has been tough on Sidney because of the two floods. After the first flood, many homeowners and businesses renovated, only to be pounded by the second flood. Since then, the village has been encouraging residents to either take buyouts from FEMA and Delaware County to potentially move to another plot of land on higher ground, or to have their homes physically elevated through a program called New York Rising Community Reconstruction, through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. Colleen Ayres, 66 River St., has been through both floods. She rebuilt after 2006. Following the 2011 flood, she is to date the only taker of the New York Rising program in Sidney. Ayres said there has been nothing but frustration in the process. “I said from the very beginning I wanted to take the elevation. The village tried to push buyouts. People are taking buyouts and moving out of the village. I couldn’t stand the thought of a big claw bulldozer crushing my house. This is my home. This is where I raised my children, and I’m not leaving. “There has been no help from the village or state. I’ve done this on my own, that’s why I’m the only house up. I feel like a guinea pig, but others say I’m a pioneer. I’ve had problems with paperwork with the State of New York. There have been glitches, paperwork mishandled and no payments, so the contractor packed up and left because he wasn’t being paid. I had frozen and
burst water pipes this past winter on one cold night and makeshift stairs to get up into my house.” Ayres said the village code enforcement office threatened her with action if she didn’t get the stairs properly installed. The contractor then told her he’d bring a lawsuit for not getting paid. After help from Senator Seward’s office by intervening to help Ayres, New York Rising paid the contractor. Ayres said the latter office called to tell her, “This never should have happened. We’re so sorry.” Ayres responded, “This program was put in place by our governor to help people who have repeatedly been traumatized by flood water, and this elevation program has traumatized me more.” She felt no one will be able to spend the amount of time necessary to navigate through the paperwork she has gone through to this point, and the village should have some way of helping others who might take this program, help she said is not currently available. Ayres has already been approached by area residents about the New York Rising program and what they need to do, assisting them as she can while going through her own experience. By early June, Ayres said the contractor had plans to put on stone facing and adding a porch, with grading and landscaping to disguise the tall, above ground foundation. Meanwhile, Ayres pointed to several neighboring homes that will soon be torn down. Other neighbors, she said, aren’t sure what they are going to do yet. Sidney Mayor Andy Matviak isn’t surprised with Ayres’ assessment of the state program and the village’s capability to help. Between the buyouts and New York Rising program, Matviak is frustrated by the snail’s pace of progress. “We’re working really hard but working through the bureaucracy of the government agencies has been challenging,” Matviak said, “and it’s taking longer to accomplish what we want to accomplish. “I don’t want our people to get discouraged. We had a meeting recently with a state representative to try to get all the agencies to work together so that everyone’s on the same page” with these programs. “One agency is doing one thing, another agency is doing another thing, and not talking to each other. It’s been challenging and frustrating, but we’re trying to move it forward. “The sorry part is the homeowners who’ve been hit by these two floods have to move on with their lives, but many of them can’t because all their money is tied up in the value of their home, so it’s tough and we as a village are trying to move this process forward.” Meanwhile Matviak said the village is working with a developer to buy property on higher grounds and build single family homes. While the homeowner issues persist, Matviak said one bright spot in the village’s flood recovery is how state and federal representatives were successful in recently convincing Amphenol, the village’s largest employer, to stay in Sidney.
who were actively involved at every level of the recovery initiative later created an affordable housing committee as the county’s lack of affordable housing stock became painfully evident. County Planning Department staff also went above and beyond by working to secure a federal grant for buyout of those homes that had suffered damage and loss greater than 50% and were deemed to be uninhabitable. The monies from this grant allowed these victims to salvage their lives and move on. Victims in other affected counties were not so fortunate. At Christmastime, the community again responded generously to our appeal — this time for donations of holiday decorations for victims who had lost theirs in the flood. People throughout Otsego County donated a mountain of holiday decorations, fragile glass
ornaments, electric trains, live Christmas trees and wreaths, and the smiles on the faces of the flood victims and their families receiving these donations certainly made the effort worthwhile! This might be a perfect opportunity to recognize those community leaders and fellow caseworkers who gave so selflessly of their time and energy, but in so doing there’s always the fear of committing a sin of omission by failing to recognize someone. Thanks are due to every agency head, staff member and caseworker who contributed to the success of Otsego County’s 2006 flood recovery efforts, and to our FEMA liaison, Brooklyn’s Ken Curtin (now retired), who provided his expertise, support and encouragement throughout the lengthy recovery period. Maureen Dill Morris
Continued from Page 1 cooperative as he’d hoped. “Especially after the acute criticism they (FEMA) received after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans only a year earlier,” Nader said. “We had to work very hard to get reimbursed, and worked with then Congressman Michael Arcuri and Senator Hillary Clinton to speed up the process.” Nader added that the same emergency staff met after the flood for a debriefing to discuss what they could have done better during the crisis. As it turned out, the city was better prepared, not knowing that another flood would strike the region five years later. “Some good came from the flood,” Davie said, in spite of the damage. “We closed our offices one day and went through a review of what happened, and what we could’ve done better, and through several budget years thereafter we allocated funding to better communication equipment, and improving infrastructure that was damaged. Recovery didn’t go as fast as a municipal official would like, but overall it went well.” Jeff Bishop, who is now a spokesman for Senator Seward, was news director at the time of a group of Oneonta radio stations including WDOS, WSRK and WZOZ. “We didn’t have social media yet, such as Facebook and Twitter, so getting the news out quickly was through radio,” Bishop said. “Whether it was Oneonta or elsewhere, emergency officials, the mayors and others who were already struggling to keep up with their tasks at hand, kept in constant contact to get information out to the public, and were always professional and accessible. That was important.” Sen. Seward looked back on working to help Oneonta and communities recover across his entire legislative district. In dealing with FEMA funding, Seward said that at the time, 75 percent of the relief funding was federal, while the state and local governments split the remaining 25 percent. Seward worked with then Gov. George Pataki to get the state to pick up the local portion of the 25 percent, to relieve the local governments from having to deal with other recovery costs, as well as FEMA. “I sat in a lot of meetings with many communities struggling with extra expenses, and then they’d have to come up with that extra 12½ percent, making another huge burden,” Seward said, “so I called for legislation to get the state to help with the local share, and Gov. Pataki supported it.” The administration of President George W. Bush encouraged local communities to upgrade or replace the damaged or existing infrastructure that could more than handle future floods like this, Seward added.
WALTON MADE PROGRESS IN RECOVERY, STILL IN PROGRESS
Mayor Ed Snow also remembered where he was when the flood hit the village. The collapse of a reservoir on Third Brook on
Residents inspect flooding in front of The Home Depot and Hannaford supermarket on Oneonta’s Southside.
Jack Steele, pastor of the New Hope Community Church, carries buckets filled with mud to the back of his property on Griswold Street in Walton. The yard is littered with stones from the West Brook, and the garage is missing, after being carried downstream with all of its contents. Steele has been carrying 8 inches of mud out of the basement with help from parishioners.
Flooding is shown on state Route 7 near Napa Auto Parts and State Farm Insurance in Sidney.
Tuesday, June 27, sent water rushing down Townsend Street, near his home. “I had just finished the basement on my old Victorian home, and when the waters came we heard some banging and when we looked downstairs, there was eight feet of water. It had come through the floor, because the pressure was so great. There was about four feet of water outside of my house and the village had to bring up a dozer so I could get out and look at damage around the village. “It was the worst disaster in the history of Walton. The 1996 flood was the last big one before that, and another in 2011, but 2006 was the worst,” Snow said. There was nearly eight feet of water on Delaware Street as he made the rounds to initially assess damage. Just on Delaware Street there was nearly $7 million in damage. The Kraft Foods plant had $10 million in damage. There were very few not affected by the flood, Snow said. Snow, a native of New York City, still had connections, as he had moved to Walton, a retiring narcotics detective with the New York Police Dept. Snow made some calls and 65 volunteers from the city’s Department of Sanitation came to the village to help with the cleanup. “They were here for a week, and thank God they came. They stayed at SUNY Delhi. People cleared out the damage in their homes and businesses and put them by the curbsides. The workers removed the wet debris which was starting to get a sweet smell, which means mold, and finished it before people might’ve gotten sick from it.” As for recovery, Snow recalled that many businesses were going to close for good, having survived the 1996 flood. He went around to the businesses and encouraged as many as
communications source at the time of the flood, Craig Stevens, general manager of WCDO Radio, got first hand views of the flood as it happened, and along with other radio station staff was challenged at times to get the important information to residents of the Tri Town area. Stevens recalled many Sidney area residents refused to leave their homes when called upon to evacuate. Reality struck and several feet of water in the first floor of homes called for police and fire boats to be brought in to rescue those stranded. “The Sidney Police Dept. asked me to go out on a boat and bring a tape recorder to describe the scene, because residents were getting very upset that they couldn’t get back to their homes. Part of why they couldn’t was because there was still so much water, and that there was danger with electricity, even though it wasn’t on, but every house needed to be checked by NYSEG before power could be turned back on. People were staying temporarily at Sidney Middle School on cots, and it was a tough situation. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life on that boat. The water was so high I could touch the tops of street signs. Water levels were still several feet high several streets to the east of the (Susquehanna) river. I saw what water could do, and the devastation it could create.” Power being off in the village of Sidney became a struggle for Stevens and news director Rob Ray to get information out at first, as the WCDO studio is downtown on Main Street. Power was on however, at their transmitter site on Pine Hill. Radio station staff went to emergency meetings, got sound recordings and went to the transmitter to play important information over the air. The makeshift
getting everything dry, new everything. We had just put in new carpet, Continued from Page 1 not even a year ago, and it had to be replaced,” Ford were photographed by The sighed. “My employee Tom Daily Star signing paper- has been with me for 35 work to receive assistance, years, and he was with me with help from an Ameri- the whole time. The waitcan Red Cross volunteer. resses came in and helped But there was still a great clean chairs, and the neighdeal to be done to get the bors were really nice.” restaurant back on its feet. But, Ford said, she was “We had these old, 1946 more concerned about her ovens, and they’re too old home than her business. to find the parts for, but we “The restaurant really found this company out in wasn’t what mattered. ... Texas that would rebuild It’s the stuff that you have the parts we needed for an emotional attachment to, us,” Ford recalled. Three mementos,” she explained. ovens and two broilers were “There was a Civil War affected, in addition to all photo album, with velvet the carpeting and furniture, and inlayed and I was so and the outside oil tank. happy to save it — the water It took a couple of months was about an inch from it.” of hard work to reopen the Ford lost her furniture, restaurant, Ford said. clothing, shoes and televi“It was me and my sion — as well as business employees doing it all, records, invoices and paydisinfecting, power wash- roll records for the restaui n g , s c r u b b i n g , a n d rant. But, she said, some
possible to stay, promising help. The village’s largest employer, Kraft Foods, was the village’s major concern, as the company had told Snow that if nothing was done to prepare for another flood, they would move out. Snow said the rebuilding process after 2006 is going well. The Walton Flood Commission was formed in 2010, and developed 19 projects to identify and reduce flood risks. In the first six years Snow said that 17 of those projects have been completed, such as creating flood plains, and making improvements on tributaries including Third Brook, West Brook, East Brook and the Delaware River. The village has received help in getting grants from the New York City Dept. of Environmental Protection and the Catskill Watershed Commission to complete the projects, which have cost about $10 million. New York City has assisted Walton on these projects, because the village is in the city’s watershed area. Snow said Walton has received a lot of help from federal and state agencies in the rebuilding process. “Everybody’s listening and helping,” Snow said. As for local residents, very few have moved away. “We’ve had about four or five meetings with the general public to let them know what’s going on and what we’re doing with our studies, and they’ve responded very well. People accept the fact and know that we live where there are tributaries and a flood plain, but very few people have moved out. Considering we’ve had two major floods in 20 years and the hit in 2011, I think that’s a good sign of the courage people have and stamina to stay where they love.”
SIDNEY STILL STRUGGLING WITH RECOVERY ISSUES
Being at the helm of a key
things were salvageable. “I learned that modern photos are fine if they get wet,” Ford said. “They curl up a bit, but they’re still okay and can be saved.” Ford said she did not know too many other people who were flooded out, and that she was surprised by the generosity of the people around her. “People were so nice; you don’t realize how nice people are until something happens to you,” Ford said. “People were very kind and compassionate, caring. People were just showing up, friends, neighbors, helping me load stuff into pickup trucks, to take it uphill.” The flood of 2006 gave Ford a new perspective, she said. “It changes the way I think about flooding,” Ford said. “When I hear about it, I know how they feel. I have a whole different respect for people going through it.”
STORIES... Continued from Page 3 flooded faced an additional burden beyond the necessary repairs to his dwelling, as he had been unaware that his well had been contaminated by the floodwaters until his children became ill after drinking the water. Some FEMA decisions concerning victims’ eligibility for awards were somewhat puzzling. As an example, instead of being awarded financial assistance through FEMA, one 83 year old woman in Unadilla was given a $76,000 SBA loan to be used to repair of her flood-damaged home. All across Otsego County, there were contractors, engineers and architects willing to donate their time and expertise to victims unable to afford their services. Members of the County’s Board of Representatives
THE DAILY STAR
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
DAY 1: THE RAIN June 27, 2006
Heavy storms bring drenching rain to already-saturated waterways. States of emergency are declared by midday in Otsego and Delaware counties as water covers roads in every direction.
DAY 2: THE WATER June 28, 2006
Three men are killed by washed-out roads as rain continues to fall. Thousands are evacuated to shelters across the region. Oneontaâ€™s wastewater treatment plant fails, sending raw sewage into the Susquehanna.
DAY 3: THE MUD June 29, 2006
The Susquehanna River crests at record levels in Bainbridge and Afton. Water recedes elsewhere as volunteers began to flow into the area to help those in need.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
THE DAILY STAR
THEN AND NOW
These four photo illustrations show locations damaged by flooding that have since been restored.
Ouleout Creek, Franklin
A bridge over the Ouleout Creek sat in ruins in 2006 on state Route 357 in the town of Franklin. The bridge was under repair at the time of the flooding, which destroyed the one open lane.
County Route 11D, Hartwick
In 2006, Bill Pijnenburg and Bruce Phillips looked out across a missing bridge and destroyed roadway as water flowed across county Route 11D in the town of Hartwick.
Steele Brook, Delhi
The raging waters of the Steele Brook on Main Street in Delhi destroyed a bridge and sidewalk in 2006, where today the stream bed is nearly dry.
Church Street, Treadwell
The flooded Ouleout Creek ruptured Church Street in 2006, upending sidewalk pavers and strewing debris on nearby lawns.
THE DAILY STAR
Flooding took its toll at state Route 206 in Bainbridge.
Debris is everywhere in the shoe repair room in Tonyâ€™s Shoe Store on Delaware Street after it was flooded with 41/2 feet of water from the Delaware River.
Floating debris is trapped behind the bumper of a pickup truck at the Kraft plant in Walton.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
Amanda Oliver of Sidney holds her 4-month-old son, Garret, as he sleeps on a mattress set up on the floor of a shelter at the Sidney Middle School on June 30.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
Debris washes up to the guardrail looking toward West Street in Walton.
THE DAILY STAR
A sign sits in debris in front of a home on River Road in Sidney on July 11, 2006.
Mike Ambros’ dog Specks sits in the mud-caked interior of Ambros’ son’s car in the front yard of his home on state Route 357 in Franklin. The car was one of three ruined, along with Ambros’ garage, when the Ouleout Creek flooded.
Patty Talarico of Sidney watches as her 4-month-old grandson, Steven Miller, sleeps in a shelter at the Sidney Middle School. In the background, left to right, are Ellen Dougherty of Bainbridge, Susie Talarico of Sidney and Anne Schubert of Bainbridge.
Dale Rigas, right, of Sidney talks with Sidney Police Department officer Amber Cohen, left, after registering at a checkpoint on Main Street in Sidney. Rigas was going to check the condition of the home of a disabled evacuee who was staying with her.
Otego residents ponder how to get across a flooded Main Street.
THE DAILY STAR
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
Derek Holiday, 14, dumps a wheelbarrow with drywall and other wet building materials behind the Afton Edge Apartments on state Route 7 in Afton on July 11. Holiday was helping his father, who worked at the apartment building. Building owner Tracy Luyster Sr. said all 12 of the downstairs apartments sustained water damage from 3 1/2 feet of water.
Rain pours down on Delaware Street in Walton as a U.S. Mail vehicle is turned back from its route.
A drainage tube under this driveway on county Route 23 near Sidney has been heaved up onto the road by the pressure of floodwater pouring down the driveway.
A state trooper looks downstream toward the Susquehanna River from the Tryson Corners bridge, trying to spot one of the two truck drivers who plunged into the creek when floodwaters washed out a section of Interstate 88.
In this aerial photo taken from an Army National Guard helicopter, Interstate 88 is seen partially flooded looking east toward the city of Oneonta.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
THE DAILY STAR
Pavement and concrete on Church Street in Treadwell lie fractured from flooding of the Ouleout Creek.
A section of washed-out state route 28 is shown in North Franklin.
A washed-out section of county Route 4 in Oxford is shown.
Justin Bolivar, 16, dumps a bucket of mud that came from the garage at his family home along Mead Street in Walton on July 9, 2006. According to his father, Jeffrey Bolivar Sr., more than 3 feet of water flooded the garage and ruined two cars.
THE DAILY STAR
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
Five Years On Editor’s note: Below are excerpts from stories The Daily Star published in 2011 looking back on the flood five years later.
Five years later, towns still rebuilding, recovering
Otsego County residents reflect on flood’s legacy By Denise richarDson
June 2006 flooding washed out roads and bridges in Otsego County, destroyed the homes of some residents and temporarily displaced others and caused milBy Mark Boshnack lions of dollars in property A flood can happen at any damage. time, Sidney village engiThrough the days of disaster and recovery, the neer John Woodyshek said recently in recounting the response revealed an ability damage and destruction of and willingness by officials the Flood of 2006. The event and residents to help at indihas had varying effects on vidual and community levels people in the communities during repair and rebuild along the Susquehanna phases. CONTRIBUTED River, which overflowed its “We all worked together. Otego residents get around on flooded roads by canoe and bike. banks that June. We did a good job,’’ said March rainstorms this Rep. Donald Lindberg, who year that prompted flood lucky to find a friend that was chairman of the Otsego warnings turned out to be was leaving the area. They County board in 2006. less significant than initially were able to stay there for Otsego County received $7 expected, Woodyshek said. two weeks while the dammillion to $8 million from the But it highlighted the impor- ages were repaired. Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair tance of the efforts to not “Many neighbors came only recover from the flood, forward to help out,” she roads and bridges, Lindberg but also upgrade municipal said. This included students said. The county also spent facilities and mitigate any from the high school and a money $400,000 to dispose future damages. friend from church. of flood-damaged property, The storms of 2006 led “We were so thankful for debris and garbage, he said, to expensive cleanup at all of these gestures of kindwith the Otsego County Solid Waste Department Amphenol Co., a major area ness,” she said. providing roll-off containemployer in the village, and other businesses. About 400 Few left untouched ers at no cost to residents. homes were damaged by the by flood in Delaware “Floods are the worst,’’ Lindberg said, who rising waters. Nine of those declared a state of emerwere bought by the county By Terry hannuM This aerial photo of Sidney, looking down Main Street, was gency in response to the through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program. They It would be very difficult taken from an Army National Guard helicopter. flooding. were demolished, with the to find a single resident of Flooding along Main land turned over to the vil- Delaware County in 2006 Street in Otego divided the village in half. lage, never to be developed. who was not affected by that Wi t h t h e d a m ag e t o year’s early summer flood. Ka r e n G i l b e r t s o n o f Otego said a man riding Amphenol and the potential Five years later, many resa tractor reached their for it to move its facilities idents and businesses are house during early flood from the area in the event of still restoring and rebuilding stage and said the family another flood, “We hope to from the damage wrought had about 10 minutes to present a sizable economic by heavy rains and surging argument that might cause flood waters. leave the premises. She had the state to take a step it The county’s infrastrucalready gone to work in might not otherwise take,” ture was put to the test by Oneonta, she said, and her Assemblyman Pete Lopez, the natural disaster, and five husband and two children, R-Schoharie, said. years later, officials say the then ages 3 and 5, went to Among the many people impacts of the flood are still a friend’s home. Eight feet affected by the flood was being felt, although many of water had flooded her Sidney businessman Glen positive changes have been basement, she said during a telephone interview E. “Whit” Whitaker, whose made that make the county last week, and water rose Whitaker and Son car deal- better prepared to handle ership was damaged. A such an event in the future. a foot into her living room. She lost many possessions, fire more than a year later According to Delaware helped him decide to retire, County Commissioner of including her wedding CONTRIBUTED photo album, but recogending 89 years and four Public Works Wayne ReynWorkers from Gilette Shows move an ice-cream vendor’s generations in the family olds, flood damage to stream nized that she still had her business. banks in the county will wagon from the flooded Margaretville Village Park, where the family and memories. “We will never forget the continue to present envi- annual Firemen’s Field Days were to be held. “After the flood,’’ she said, “I looked at everyhelp we had from family and ronmental challenges well friends,” he said recently. into the future. In addition, protect people from health the phones in the county thing as `it’s just stuff.’’’ The sales department on he said, damage from floods hazards posed by possibly and we can call people by The family couldn’t go town, or even by a certain home for two days, GilbMain Street was closed for before and since 2006 have contaminated water. just a couple of days follow- made recovery all the more “We realized that unlike block, to warn them about ertson said, and after that children who receive vac- dangerous conditions,” said people stopped by spontaing the flood, while the ser- difficult. vice department was closed But Reynolds said the cinations in school, many Jones, also the county’s neously to help throw away adults do not know when chief dispatcher. for about a week. Employ- news is not all bad. debris and clean up her Early on June 28, 2006, as house. Life in Otego became ees and community helped “Recovery … has left us in their last tetanus or other to lessen the damage from a somewhat better position vaccinations were,” Walsh streams were raging and more than living in a house the rising waters. Before for future events,” he said. said. “We are geared up now rivers near cresting, Rob- on East Street, she said. the flood hit, community “After each event, we gain a for clinics and have plans for ert Stockwell, 31 of South “It changed me,’’ she said. members helped move the better understanding of the a mobile unit.” New Berlin died when his “I feel like I’m a part of the cars from the sales lot to natural forces at work and For Walton Mayor Patrick pickup truck plunged into a community now.’’ the high school athletic field are able to develop counter- Meredith, as much as policies deep, washed-out culvert on Meanwhile, the Otsego parking lot, he said. Local measures that provide more or plans may have changed Holmesville Hill Road in the D e p a r t m e n t o f S o c i a l Services set up an emerfire departments helped get resilience in the replace- since the Flood of 2006, town of Norwich. what’s more important has water out of the elevator ment structures.” Five years later, the family gency call center at the shaft in the service departCounty Emergency Ser- been what remains the same. is coping as well as can be State University College ment. His wife, Rosemary, vices Director Rich Bell, “When the local commu- expected, according to the at Oneonta. At the college, was also a big help, he said. who described the Flood of nity sees a family or busi- Rev. Romeyn Kipp of the local American Red Cross, “It’s hard to sort through 2006 as “a tremendous event ness suffering, they are Holmesville Baptist Church. federal and state emer“All the immediate family gency management agency the emotions,” he said, for the citizens of Delaware ready to help out,” Meredith reflecting on that time. “I County,” said he believes the said. “Some things never are born-again Christians; representatives and Otsego they know the Lord and Department of Social Serhave no idea how we made county’s population is more change.” the Lord has given them vices workers provided serit, except to rely on the cognizant of what to do in an strength of God, family, emergency since the flood. Chenango residents strength,” said Kipp, whose vices, supplies and referrals. employees and community. Bell said the county has daughter-in-law is StockBy mid-July 2006, more look back on also joined the state’s NYthan 900 people in Otsego Everyone pitched in.” well’s sister. tragedy Nicholas Rigas is a post- Alert system, through which In the weeks after the County had registered for tragedy, the culvert on assistance, an official at the man whose route included county residents may sign Holmesville Hill Road was time said. parts of the flooded area in up to receive emergency By ToM Grace replaced and that section Sidney. His wife was helping messages via email or cellThe county Department of a woman with disabilities at phone, and has implemented NORWICH — Five years of road, repaved. Five years Social Services helped with the time of the flood. a reverse-911 system for ago in Chenango County, it later, it’s hard to see where distribution of food stamps “She didn’t have a place to disaster messages. rained unmercifully hard for the road was riven that day, and financial assistance and In Margaretville, it wasn’t three days in June, flooding but the neighbors have not assigning emergency housgo so she stayed with us,” he said. just everyday life that was houses, closing roads, wash- forgotten, according to Mike ing, according to Joyce Boyd, “It was very stressful” disturbed by the Flood of ing out culverts. Petry, who lives just up the Otsego’s commissioner of with people not knowing if 2006; flood waters lapped at Thirteen months after a hill from the culvert. social services. the water that had flooded carnival tents and a Ferris spring flood had inundated “It was a tragedy you can Overall, the flood heightthe area was safe to be wheel that had been set up the city of Norwich, the never forget, happening ened awareness about needs around, Rigas said. “Every- for the annual Firemen’s Flood of 2006 was worse. right here, but I don’t worry for disaster planning, said body pulled together to Field Days. One man died while driving about it happening again,” Boyd, who serves on the county’s Human Services cleanup. It was encouraging Dave Budin of the Mar- to work, and dozens of peo- Petry said. to see.” garetville Fire Department ple were evacuated to shelNorwich city firefighter Disaster Preparedness B a i n b r i d g e r e s i d e n t said that flooding 10 years ters as their homes became Steve Cady said the flood Committee. of 2006 has made lasting “We’re trying to be better Michele McFee said since earlier had taught local uninhabitable. impressions beyond those prepared for next time,’’ she Could it happen again? the flood, when it rains hard, residents the importance said. she checks the river levels. of being prepared, so the No one can control the in people’s minds. As long as it stays below 27 response was quick and weather, “but we’re much “It has changed the In 2007, the Otsego County feet — the height it rose to mostly efficient. Budin said better prepared than we hydraulics of small streams Board of Representatives during the flood — she can a few carnival vendors’ rides were in 2006,” A. Wesley in the area,” said Cady, who received an award from relax. were damaged, but pointed Jones,’ Norwich’s emer- recalled marathon sessions the Ulster County Mental She and her family were out that the damage was gency management coordi- of pumping basements in Health Association for “tireevacuated the day it all minor compared to what nator, said recently. June 2006. less efforts’’ helping flood started, but they didn’t other parts of the county “We use the New York Cady also spoke of the victims, including efforts to expect to be gone very long. faced. The celebration was Alert system, which didn’t technological improvements provide emotional support The first night they postponed to the following exist back then,” Jones said. meant to keep people safer to residents. Lindberg said camped in her husband’s weekend. “Back in ‘06, we actually had from future floods. he met “many good peoBainbridge-Guilford High After the dangers posed police and firefighters going “Now, we can log onto a ple’’ when he visited floodSchool chemistry class, by flood waters receded, block by block with P.A. computer and see where the impacted communities. sleeping under the tables. new risks emerged. Amanda speakers, warning people of water levels are at, and that “A lot of them lost everyThe next day they tried to Walsh, epidemiologist for the impending flood. gives us a jump on where thing,’’ Lindberg said. “It’s “Now we can do that with we were five years ago,” he sad.’’ approach their village house Delaware County Public but found it had water up to Health, said her agency set a reverse phone call. We said. “In that respect, I think But there were many the first floor. They were up vaccination clinics to help have a 911 data base of all were much better off.’ examples of people helping
each other and restoring property and communities, he said. Lindberg said the process of restoring order after the flood took about two years and involved many departments and agencies working together to help residents. “We just got the work done,’’ Lindberg said.
Heavy rain shut down city, town infrastructure By Jake PalMaTeer
Flash floods that struck the city and town of Oneonta five years ago this week fueled a record rise in the Susquehanna River. The two-pronged assault damaged homes and businesses in the community and crippled public infrastructure. B u t O n e o n t a l a r g e ly escaped private property losses seen in other communities because of floodprevention measures put into place decades ago, according to then-Mayor John Nader. “The city dodged a bullet in comparison to other communities,” Nader said last week. “The lion’s share of the damage was public sector damage.” T h e n - O n e o n t a Tow n Supervisor Duncan Davie, a senior aide to state Sen. James L. Seward, R-Milford, was in Seward’s office on South Main Street when the flash flooding began to hit. “It had been raining for a day,” he said. “Bob Barnes called me up and said we’ve got some real problems.” Among the chief of these were concerns over the integrity of the dam at Wilber Lake, a major part of the city watershed infrastructure. “It’s one of those odd things,” Davie said, noting he didn’t realize he was in the middle of a disaster right away. Once at the town hall, Davie and other town officials began implementing its emergency management plan enacted in the early 1990s. At the Public Safety Building, Barnes, who was also the city’s emergency manager, Nader and other city officials coordinated the city’s response according to its plans. The swelling Susquehanna crippled Oneonta’s wastewater-treatment plant, blocked sections of Interstate 88 and forced the evacuation of state Route 23 from Wal-Mart to The Home Depot. The NWS had issued times when the river would crest in Oneonta. But it kept rising. When it did finally crest, the mayor and fire chief said it could have been much worse. A berm and flood gates installed around Neahwa Pa r k p r eve n t e d m a j o r flooding in the Sixth Ward. Interstate 88, constructed in the 1970s, also worked as a berm. “They had never really been tested in that way before,” Nader said. “It proved quite effective.” In the town, there was flood damage to homes in several areas of the town, including West Oneonta, the West End and Pony Farm Road. Both Nader and Davie lauded the work of municipal employees. “Many of the DPW and emergency services people worked through the night,” Nader said. D av i e h a d s i m i l a r accolades. “It was an amazing time. All of our town employees just really pitched in and worked extra hours,” Davie said. Mitigation work, including a nearly $1 million flood-prevention project on Oneonta Creek, continued for several years after the flood and even today, projects in both the city and town include upgraded stormwater designs. “The infrastructure that we rebuilt, we rebuilt differently,” Davie said.
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016
THE DAILY STAR