Essex County towns clean up from flooding
Highway departments in several Essex County towns spent part of the weekend repairing roads and culverts damaged in flooding brought on by heavy downpours Thursday night and Friday.
Communities in Franklin County were largely spared from any serious flooding, although emergency services officials continue to keep a close eye on the water levels in local lakes, rivers and streams.
In the wake of Friday’s flooding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued disaster declarations in several upstate counties, including Essex and Franklin.
Jay Highway Superintendent Chris Garrow said two of his town’s roads remain closed due to washouts: Jay Mountain Road and Lincoln Hill Road. Several other roads that were similarly affected by the storm have since reopened, including the Carey, Nugent, Hazen, Hesseltine and Anthony roads.
“There’s still some work to do,” Garrow said this morning. “We’re still fixing an upper end of a culvert, and we still have some more grading to do, more gravel.”
No private properties in the town were impacted by the flooding, Garrow told the Enterprise Friday night.
One of the hardest-hit areas was Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley, which had sustained extensive damage when Tropical Storm Irene hit the region in August 2011.
This time, it wasn’t the East Branch of the AuSable spilling into the fields, although there was a little of that; rather, the normally placid Phelps Brook suddenly became a raging torrent that “obliterated our driveway,” according to farm owner Rob Hastings, The flash flood flowed right down the driveway and hammered the greenhouses.
“That happened within 20 minutes,” Hastings said. “What we experienced from Phelps Brook was worse than Irene damage.”
The farm lost its strawberry crop, which Hastings valued at about $500.
“We are so diverse here, I don’t rely on any one thing too much,” Hastings said.
The strawberries were looking good and were ready to be picked that day, he added.
“We could’ve picked them the day before, but I figured I’d save it for a rainy day – not that rainy,” Hastings said.
Town of Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee said this morning that all four roads that were closed in his town due to Friday’s flooding have now been reopened. He said he was waiting for a report from his highway superintendent on the cost of the repairs.
“We had minimal damage on Beede Road, some erosion on the sides of the road,” Ferebee said. “Phelps Brook (Road) took a pretty good hit. They worked until 10 p.m. Friday night getting that back passable. It was closed completely. It took a number of loads of stone to get it passable.”
Low-lying areas of Hulls Falls Road had also flooded, but the East Branch of the AuSable River has receded and the road is now passable, Ferebee said. He said there was some private property damaged off of Styles Brook Road when the brook overflowed its banks and eroded adjacent lands.
Ferebee noted that a new retaining wall built along Gulf Brook, which was heavily scoured during Irene, held up well during Friday’s storm, although the water in the brook got pretty high.
“All in all, we did OK,” Ferebee said. “What I found this time is that the water came out of its banks in different areas,” Ferebee. “My concern is that we need to go at the beginning, at the top of Phelps Brook and at the top of Gulf Brook, and clean this debris out because eventually it’s all going to wash down anyway. It’s just, how many storms is it going to take?”
Ferebee said he has applied for state emergency assistance to cover the cost of the town’s repairs.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said the worst damage in her town was on Hurricane Mountain Lane.
“Almost two miles of road, from the Caulkin/Lord Cemetery to the hiking trailhead for Hurricane Mountain, was washed out by water that overflowed the ditches and culverts,” Bartley wrote in an email. “Damage extended beyond the limits of the town road onto a private road that serves two homes.”
Although there are no sizable streams or brooks along the Hurricane Mountain Lane, water running off the mountain caused such severe damage that families living near the end of the road still were unable to get out on Sunday night.
“The town highway workers were in contact with these families, and a friend with a four-wheeler brought them groceries,” Bartley said.
Elizabethtown’s highway department worked 12 hours on Saturday and part of Sunday bringing in over 100 dump truck loads of rock and dirt to create an emergency road to the affected homes. Neighboring town highway departments and a private hauler also helped, Bartley said.
Bartley said she coordinated with the state Office of Emergency Management and Essex County Emergency Services to arrange for work crews from the state’s Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility to help with cleanup at Footbridge Park and the town golf course.
“The first crew arrived on Sunday morning and worked with the golf course manager to remove stream debris that had piled up around the footbridge and the picnic tables,” Bartley said. “Paving stones were replaced and mud was scraped up off the roadway. The crew will return (today) and Tuesday to finish the initial cleanup. However, the flood caused serious damage to the stream bank and log cribbing at the footbridge, which will require extensive rebuilding.”
A town and county disaster assessment team will be visiting all the damaged sites to estimate the cost of repairs. Bartley encouraged private property owners to email her information about damage and approximate repair costs at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. The information will be compiled with the public estimates and sent on to Albany and Washington to determine whether the town and county will receive any financial assistance, Bartley said.
Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said Franklin County has mostly recovered from recent storms, but the worst might not be over.
Although passable, some roads affected by flooding are still in need of repair, including Blue Mountain Road in the town of Waverly, county Route 14 in Waverly and Dickinson, Wolf Pond Road in Belmont and a couple of roads in Tupper Lake.
But today, the county is busy preparing itself for more rain.
“We’re going to meet with county people today; we’re trying to get a game plan together to get the water lowered in Lake Flower,” Provost said. “We’re putting out as much as we can without flooding businesses. In the town of St. Armand, we’ve got water a couple inches from Moose Pond Road, and we’re doing the best we can to get rid of it.”
Provost added that releasing water from Lake Flower is crucial to avoid flooding. Both flood gates are currently open at the Main Street bridge on Lake Flower.
“We were able to get the Lake Flower impoundment down to about 8 inches (over spillway) on Thursday, and we’re back up in the area of 14 inches as of yesterday,” Provost said. “Whatever we got for rain on Thursday or Friday, I’m guessing an inch-and-a-half or 2, made a 6-inch difference at Lake Flower, and they’re saying a possibility on 2 inches today and tomorrow.”
Provost said minor flooding can occur when the water level reaches a depth of a foot over the spillway, and that forecasted rain could bring the water level to 20 inches over the spillway.
“We have no way to change it – we’re kind of along for the ride at this point,” Provost said. “This spring, the highest I’ve seen it is 21 inches over spillway. In the spring of 2011, we were at 3 feet over spillway.”