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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prattsville nyPrattsville, two weeks after Irene hit, 2011

Photograph by Robert J. Near

The deluge begins

“It seemed liked everything happened in just a few minutes that day,” recalled Ginny Kennedy, 71, a lifelong Prattsville resident. “My sister had mentioned the weather reports and possible flooding; I figured it might mean a few inches of water in my basement. I remember looking out the window that morning at the rain, and thinking it didn’t seem so bad.” But just 10 minutes later, “I noticed water had started coming up across the way,” Kennedy said. The Schoharie Creek, which flows through the middle of town, was quickly morphing into raging rapids.

“It all started about 7 a.m.,” remembers Jim Eisel, owner of the Great American supermarket in downtown Prattsville. “The creek began to get higher. At first it was nothing serious; but then tree limbs and other debris got plugged up under the Main Street bridge, and the creek started to overflow. Within one hour, all hell started to break loose,” said Eisel, who rode out the storm at his home a few miles from town.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s brother-in-law showed up at her one-story Main Street home. “He had his four-wheel-drive pickup truck and he said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here — now!’ Then I knew it was bad,” Kennedy says. “I didn’t even stop to take my purse.” Other evacuating neighbors piled into the truck, and they all headed to a safe refuge.

» See why Irene hit so hard (page TK)

“We had no idea what was happening downtown; the phone and electric went out. We had a battery-powered radio and heard bits and pieces of news throughout the day,” says Kennedy. By about 5 p.m., the pounding rain had abated. It seemed like the worst was over, so Kennedy and her kin tried to head back downtown. “But we didn’t get far because the water was still high. I couldn’t get close enough to my house to see anything.”

prattsvillePrattsville, June 2012

Photograph by Robert J. Near

Charlie Gockel, a Methodist pastor, is executive director of the Huntersfield Christian Training Center, a 570-acre retreat site perched on a mountain about five miles outside of town. It became a refuge for many that Sunday. “By 6 p.m., we had about 88 people staying here,” Gockel said. “The irony was that lots of people came up here to escape from downstate, where Irene was expected to be worse. Instead, we got the brunt of it here.” Power went out at Huntersfield, “but we got some generators and raided the refrigerators in the four staff houses to feed people.”

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

During that frightening day, rescue workers removed at least 87 stranded people from the Prattsville area. One mom and her 10-year-old son huddled for eight hours on their roof until rescue workers could hoist a cable to another house and pull them to safety.        

Even after the rain finally stopped — up to 13 inches had fallen in some areas — flood waters rose for hours as rivers and streams crested and runoff from mountain streams added to the torrents. The Schoharie Creek alone rose more than 15 feet in less than 12 hours, creating a monumental deluge of water with such enormous volume that Shaun Groden, the Greene County administrator, says it was greater than all of Niagara Falls.


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