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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“Once people found places to stay — some moved in with relatives, some found apartments, and some left town — the next goal was to start mucking out the houses,” said Gockel. “We would mop out each house, then power-wash what we could, to get started.” Inspections were needed to determine if houses could be saved. If so, then came the rebuilding — with nearly all the sawing, hammering, and nailing done by volunteers.
Kennedy, like other Prattsville residents, received FEMA assistance; few residents had flood insurance. Support also came from grants and private donations that poured into town. “People would just show up at the building sites and donate,” said Gockel. “Some would give $500 or more, right there on the spot. Some even gave $10,000. It was remarkable.”
» See why Irene hit so hard (page TK)
Volunteers swarmed to town, some allied with the Huntersfield Christian Training Center, others from groups ranging from colleges to construction firms. “Sometimes 800 people would volunteer in a day the first few weekends,” Gockel said. “They came from New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Wyoming, California, you name it.” By November, volunteers had donated more than 30,000 man-hours of time, he noted.
The rebuilding team started work on Ginny Kennedy’s house the week before Easter. A former resident who now owns a construction business brought a crew, recalls Kennedy, “and they had the house totally framed in a day and a half.” She says the total rebuilding project cost approximately $150,000.
As we go to press, Kennedy is hoping to move back into her house this summer — almost a full year after the storm.
“We’ve got about 25 homes back in good enough shape so that the families could move back in,” said Gockel. “Some aren’t quite finished; they still need things like siding. And we have about 15 more houses to rebuild. But by the end of all this, the town will definitely be better off.”
» Irene’s blow to local farms and crops (page TK)
Shortly after the storm, local citizens worked with architects and planners from River Street Planning and Development in Troy to launch a Rebuild Prattsville group (www.prattsville.org). Their goals ranged from rebuilding homes and parks to developing a community garden. The Housing Expo and Home Improvement Show held in March attracted 50 vendors and was deemed “a huge success.” A June 3 “Planting Day” paired the Prattsville group with master gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. “Gardeners all came to town and gave plants to those who lost theirs in the hurricane. We filled their planters with vegetables, herbs, flowers, whatever they wanted,” says Annie Hull, the chairwoman of the group’s housing committee.
Hull says that the hurricane’s aftermath remains visible. “We still have homes that need to be torn down, and debris on the side of the road.” Even so, she says that “Rebuilding is going well. We’ve been very successful with helping residents to get back in their homes. All of our businesses are up and running, with the exception of just one.”