Irene drenches county, but main punch felt elsewhere

GHENT — Good night Irene and good riddance!

While surrounding counties deal with comparatively greater structural and infrastructural damage, Hurricane Irene is thankfully mostly a soggy, windswept memory here.

Chair of the county Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee Valerie Bertram (R-Stuyvesant) declared a State of Emergency for Columbia County as of 2 p.m. Saturday August 27 through 5 p.m. Monday, August 29. Town officials across the county also declared local states of emergency and residents were urged to stay off the roads.

Babbling brooks turned into raging rivers and tranquil ponds rose many feet above their shorelines, inundating basements, roads, yards and low-lying areas.

Flooding and downed wires and trees caused the closure of roads, some of which were washed out. Weekend events were cancelled or postponed.

High water levels overflowed the Summit Street Dam in Philmont, the morning of August 28, Village Mayor Clarence “Skip” Speed, Claverack Supervisor Robin Andrews and Columbia County Public Works Director David Robinson surveyed the situation and sent an emergency alert to area residents telling them to be prepared for an evacuation. Buses were put on standby and Ockawamick was available to open as a shelter if needed.

Many residents left their homes in advance of the possible evacuation.

Village personnel closely monitored not only the Summit Street Dam, but also the Philmont Dam above the reservoir.  By 4 p.m., the water level was still rising, but the dam continued to hold well. As of 6:30 p.m. the water level had dropped by more than a foot and the alert was called off. On August 28 Red Rock firefighters rescued residents at 286 Clark Road, Chatham, who could not cross the Indian Creek due to flooding. Churchtown firefighters help evacuate residents of the Hollowville Mobile Home Park, also on August 28. The Hollowville Creek overflowed its banks becoming two or three feet deep right outside residents’ front doors.

Between Saturday, August 27 and Sunday, August 28, Columbia County 911 dispatched a total of 289 fire calls. The calls included 149 water problems and 75 calls about downed electrical wires. According to the ColumbiaPage website, these numbers do not include incidents that fire departments handled on their own.

Rita Edwards of Germantown had an 80-foot pine tree swaying in the wind back and forth between her house and cottage that she feared would wipe out both buildings.

Countywide damage estimates are still being assessed.

The Columbia County Emergency Management Office established shelters at the Taghkanic Firehouse, the Churchtown firehouse, Copake Community Center, St. Joseph’s Center, Tri-Village firehouse, Hillsdale firehouse, New Lebanon firehouse — all equipped with cots, food and water.

Remarkably fewer than 1,000 residents countywide lost electrical service. The three electric utilities that serve the county, Central Hudson, New York State Electric and Gas and National Grid, all reported Wednesday that any remaining residents without power would have it restored by Wednesday night.

Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Roy Brown reported that the eastern corridor of Columbia County from New Lebanon to Hillsdale had the worst flooding in the county, yet the western part of the county had higher rainfall totals. Power outages were countywide, but were more concentrated in the north and the south. Mr. Brown said Wednesday that Columbia County fire departments, rescue squads, emergency management personnel, health department personnel, environmental health personnel and highway department were all working to help in Greene County, which was “totally devastated. Prattsville was just washed away,” said Mr. Brown.

The National Weather Service reported the following unofficial rainfall readings recorded August 27 through August 30: Hudson 8.27-inches, Livingston 8.26, Ghent 7, Kinderhook 6.92, Chatham Center 6.90, Taghkanic 6.81, Germantown 5.25, Ancramdale 4.72 and North Chatham 4.54.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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