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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The day after

Monday dawned bright and clear. By then, at least 190 rescues had reportedly taken place in the area — including a group of nearly two dozen visitors, mostly women and children from Brooklyn, who’d been stranded overnight at a motel near Prattsville. Fortunately, there were no storm fatalities in the town.

That morning, Kennedy finally made it back to her house. “Somebody told me it was ‘kind of off the foundation.’ I thought that would mean you’d just sort of put it back.”

As they drove down muddy, debris-strewn Main Street, Kennedy was aghast to see an empty spot where the house directly opposite hers had been washed away. It had come to rest four or five lots down the street — where it remains today. “At that point, I knew it was going to be bad,” she said.

» See why Irene hit so hard (page TK)

And it was. Kennedy’s house was askew, tipped off its foundation and partially propped up by some electric lines and a big maple tree in the front yard. “I was totally shocked when I saw the inside,” she said. “Ten to 12 inches of mud. Fumes from the fuel oil tank penetrated everything. I had to throw out all my clothes — even the furniture and the pots and pans smelled of fuel oil.” Eight feet of water filled her basement. Kennedy gathered up a few things and moved in with relatives nearby.

Eisel’s Great American supermarket was the first business to reopen. “By the time I could get back through the streets into town on Monday, power had been off for 15 hours,” he said. “We salvaged what we could and donated everything that was still good: hot dogs, hamburgers, canned food, supplies. We had the biggest parking lot in town, so we became a sort of command center. About 70 people came that first day; some lost their homes and had nowhere else to go.”

More people began to gather, according to Eisel, whose store was fully reopened 19 days later. “The town got us a generator. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) arrived and made food, along with the Red Cross and a lot of volunteers.”

» Irene’s blow to local farms and crops (page TK)

Gockel recalled that by day three, a tent was hoisted in the Great American parking lot, and the Salvation Army and more relief crews had arrived. “For a few days, people had breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the parking lot, and did all they could to help each other. It was like a family — tremendous how the whole town came together,” he said.

“The biggest immediate need was shelter and food,” said Tim Bachman, regional emergency services director of the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York. Red Cross volunteers lugged food, other survival supplies, and cleanup kits (“things like mops, buckets, cleaning supplies that were in great demand”) to Prattsville and Schoharie County, which Bachman says were the two hardest-hit areas in our region. The Hunter Foundation in Tannersville stepped in with funding, as did numerous other groups from near and far.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the local devastation on August 31, along with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; they promised quick disaster relief aid. That day, too, President Obama signed disaster declarations for eight New York counties, qualifying them for federal assistance to individual persons and households. This helped speed funds to devastated towns like Prattsville.

 

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