Hurricane Irene 2011: Damage, Destruction, Rebuilding, and Before and After Photos

On August 28, 2011, Hurricane Irene slammed into the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, causing devastating floods and other storm damage. One year later, the cleanup and rebuilding continues


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It was one for the record books. When Hurricane Irene roared up the East Coast last August, it instantly became one of the top 10 worst catastrophes to ever hit the U.S. At least 44 people in 13 states died in the storm; more than nine million people were without power at one point or another, and one federal agency estimated that Irene caused as much as $15.8 billion in damages. Then there were the Catskills. When the monster storm approached New York on the morning of August 28, all eyes were on the low-lying coastal areas. It wasn’t until two days later that reports of unprecedented flooding began pouring out of the Catskills. There were stories of main streets transformed into raging rivers, bridges knocked out, cars and houses literally floating away, and vacationers trapped in homes without food or water.

main street phoenicia nyMain Street, Phoenicia: June 23, 2012

Photograph by Christine Eschbach

Among the worst hit towns were Windham, Tannersville, Phoenicia, and Margaretville. But it was the tiny town of Prattsville — with just 700 or so residents — that became the national face for the devastation that Irene had wreaked. Homes and businesses alike were completely wiped out; one day after the storm, a New York Times headline summed up the situation: “In Catskill Communities, Survivors Are Left With Little But Their Lives.” But in the wake of this tragedy there has been a silver lining. Heroes have emerged and communities have come together to rebuild like never before. As the one-year anniversary of the storm approaches, residents look back at that fateful Sunday morning and how their lives have been forever changed.


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