Flooding hits Keene Valley, Jay (update)

There was flooding in Keene Valley and Jay Friday as heavy overnight rain caused the East Branch of the AuSable River and some of its tributaries to spill their banks.

Water covered roads, surrounded several houses and delivered another hit to Rivermede Farm, which has suffered from many floods in the past.

More than a half dozen roads in the town of Jay were closed due to washouts, although some had opened back up by Friday night as the rain came to an end and the flooding began to subside. However, more rain is expected today.

A section of county Route 9N was closed due to flooding near Stickney Bridge, between Jay and AuSable Forks, for much of the day. Jay Highway Superindentent Chris Garrow told the Enterprise around 7:30 p.m. Friday that that section of road was expected to reopen soon.

The Carey, Nugent, Hazen, Hesseltine and Anthony roads, which had also been closed due to washouts, had either already reopened or were going to be reopened Friday night, Garrow said, while Lincoln Hill, Jay Mountain and Clark roads would likely remain closed.

“There’s not a danger to go through them, but there’s some washouts that need to be taken care of,” Garrow said.

“I’m doing a damage survey report right now and I’m going to finish it (Saturday) morning,” he added. “I’m going to need quite a pile of gravel to restore what’s damaged again. We’re in another mess. It’s going to take us 2 or 3 weeks to catch up.”

Garrow said no property owners in the town of Jay were affected by the flooding.

Two roads were closed in Keene Valley as of 1:30 Friday – Hulls Falls and Phelps Brook – according to town Supervisor Bill Ferebee. Two more, Beede Lane and Holt Road, were reopened around midday Friday as the flood waters subsided.

“The water has receded but we’re waiting for the next round,” Keene Valley Fire Chief Rusty Hall told the Enterprise Friday night.

The water came right up to state Route 73, Keene Valley’s main street, but didn’t close it.

A few houses were surrounded by water in Keene Valley, as well as one in nearby St. Huberts, Ferebee said.

The normally placid Phelps Brook covered Beede Lane and surrounded some houses.

“Phelps Brook jumped its banks, went through people’s yards, tore up the road over to Rivermede Farm,” Hall said. “We loaned them a pump so they could pump out their greenhouses.”

The fire department also loaned a pump to Debra Whitson and John Haverlick, whose home was also impacted by the flooding.

“We are situated kind of where Phelps Brook enters the East Branch of the AuSable, right near Rivermede Farm,” Whitson said “The brook was running all around us.”

The water peaked at 2 to 3 feet around the house and got into the basement, Whitson said.

“Luckily, the house is intact,” she said, “just a mess in the basement.

“Our yard looks like a pond,” she added. “Our driveway’s nonexistent. … It’s like eroded away.”

As Whitson talked on the phone, she was back at home, but Friday morning, she and Haverlick had evacuated on the advice of town officials.

“We did so just in time,” she said. “I actually don’t think we could have gotten the cars out if we hadn’t. … The water was up to the floorboards.”

Unlike many people, they have flood insurance. She said they were required to buy it when they bought the house six years ago.

“We whined and complained about it because it’s expensive, but the last couple of years, we’ve thought, maybe that was a pretty good investment,” she said.

Nevertheless, their house did OK in 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene, and they didn’t file an insurance claim. She said this new flooding probably isn’t bad enough to merit a claim, either.

She said Rivermede Farm got hit much worse. The Enterprise couldn’t immediately reach farm owner Rob Hastings, but Whitson said he told her Friday that his driveway, greenhouses and strawberry fields were flooded, and that he was supposed to fill a big strawberry order Friday.

“That’s just horrible,” Whitson said. “Those folks just keep getting hit and hit and hit (by floods), and they recover, and they get hit again.”

She said she was surprised the flooding in her area didn’t come from the AuSable but from Phelps Brook.

“This tiny little creek that nobody really notices was just this raging whitewater rapids,” she said. “It’s crazy how fast the water can rise up. Normally, it’s just this little babbling brook.”

The AuSable’s East Branch did, however, flood Hulls Falls Road and surround some houses on it.

In the neighboring hamlet of Keene, the river and its brooks rose but didn’t cause any known problems, according to Ferebee. As in Keene Valley, the water was receding by midday Friday.

“I’m judging by Gulf Brook, which was a problem child during Irene,” Ferebee said from Keene. “I’m looking out my window, and it’s receded at least a foot in the last hour, hour-and-a-half.”

“That’s good news for me,” Garrow said when told what Ferebee had seen.

There was also flooding in Elizabethtown Friday. The American Red Cross at one point planned to set up a shelter for people evacuated from their homes but then decided it was not necessary.

Enterprise Senior Staff Writer Chris Knight contributed to this report.