Deluge hits hard at north end of county
KINDERHOOK–Local, state and federal officials added up the damage estimates this week from last week’s record-breaking downpours that struck 10 municipalities around the county. The overall cost to roads and embankments, bridges and sewer systems is now set at $4.8 million, an amount that does not take into account damages to crops and local businesses.
Initial reports from the National Weather Service in Albany said that rainfall amounts reached nearly five inches Wednesday, July 30, in some northern Columbia County communities. More rain fell on Friday, raising floodwaters again briefly.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) toured the worst-hit communities early this week, accompanied by town highway superintendents and other officials. “The Town of new Lebanon is probably one of the hardest hit,” said Bill Black, the director of Columbia County Emergency Management.
Kinderhook also sustained major damage, in particular State Route 9 at the north end of Kinderhook village, which was completely submerged. Kinderhook town Supervisor Doug McGivney said Monday the preliminary damage repair figure for his town was $176,000.
Paul Boehme, mayor of the Village of Chatham, said damage there affected a sewer pipe that crosses the Stony Kill Creek. He said Tuesday he was awaiting an estimate for repairs. The village is in the final phase of a major state project designed to improve storm water drainage, and spots where the flooding has been a problem in the past, including School Street, were clear of standing water after the storms. But other streets in the village did experience some flooding.
Chatham town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said the problems there were mostly in Old Chatham and in Chatham Center, where part of Silvernail Road collapsed into the adjacent creek.
At the boundary of Kinderhook village and Valatie, the Samascott Garden Market was one of the businesses most affected by the storm. Kristie Samascott said Tuesday that the store had two feet of water inside during the height of the flood and the furnaces in each of the 13 greenhouses at the site were submerged. She said it was not clear whether the furnaces would operate properly when they dry out, and she was not sure that any of the insurance for the business would apply to flood damage.
She said the store reopened immediately after the flood, but just the front. The family has also moved the mums out of the greenhouse, hoping to save the plants, said Ms. Samascott. “A lot more needs to be done,” she said. “It’s going to be a long process.”
Steve Hadcock, extension educator with the Columbia County Cornell Cooperative Extension office said it was too early to assess the full impact of last week’s storms on crops. He urged any farmers whose crops were affected to contact the federal Farm Service Agency on Route 66 in Ghent, (518) 828-4385, to report the damage.
He sees a “slim” chance that flooded field crops can recover if the weather stays dry and sunny for a prolonged period, but he said, “It’s been a bad year for vegetable producers,” with the most recent rains compounding the problems arising from soil already saturated from a record rainfall in July.
A mile or so north of Samascott’s market, the Golden Harvest store and orchards escaped the worst of the storm, said owner Allen Grout. His fields are on higher, well-drained soil. But he said the prolonged wet weather has created ideal conditions for insect pests and fungus.
Art Baer (R-Hillsdale), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said the damage figure had been compiled by SEMO using federal formulas, and while the figure is large, a state disaster declaration requires damages in excess of $23 million. When destruction of property reaches that level, the county is eligible for the maximum amount of federal aid. He said it’s still possible that damage on Long Island from the same line of storms might boost the total to the point where Governor David Paterson could issue a disaster declaration.
Mr. Baer said that even if the damage figure does not reach the federal threshold, there still may be some federal aid available to the county, towns, villages and the City of Hudson, which also experienced flooding last week. “It’s not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition,” he said.
One aspect of the current damage estimate that caught Mr. Baer by surprise is that the total estimate for municipal losses last week was almost exactly the same as the estimate for damage from last December’s crippling ice storm: $4.8 million for the flood and $4.9 million for the ice storm. “That was a shocker to me,” he said.
To contact Parry Teasdale email pteasdale@ColumbiaPaper.com