Schoharie County community remembers 10 years since Tropical Storm Irene

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SCHOHARIE COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Members of the Schoharie County community say now, they’re far more prepared than they were 10 years ago when Tropical Storm Irene submerged much of the area. Locals still remember what they call the “wall of water” that hit their homes and businesses.

“Right across the flats and headed right to the Schoharie Creek and headed to Schoharie and Middleburgh and I thought this is not going to be good,” recalls Former Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond.

“In the salon, the water came up to about [the sign] where it says ATM inside,” local business owner and Schoharie Village Clerk Treasurer Leslie Price explains while gesturing to the windows of her salon, J Lacy.

Price lost her home and one of her businesses to Irene. She says even her main salon in the village took an entire year of recovery to open again.

“My business in Middleburg was only 18 months old and I lost that. My home in the Village here, that was destroyed. It was taken down within a week,” Price says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “Between my home, my businesses, and taking care of the village, there were so many volunteers, friends, and family, that I don’t even know who to thank, because I couldn’t be in four places at once.”

She says after Irene, the Village of Schoharie lost 100 percent of business and worship and 75 percent of homes were unlivable. Only within the year has the village finally finished the last of more than 60 post-storm recovery projects through FEMA, Price says.

“Rebuilding banks at the Fox Creek, there was rebuilding pavilions, there was a lot of work done at the sewer plant,” she explains. “The village office had nine feet of water. I lost everything, so every component that you can think of that would be in an office had to be replaced.”

Unfortunately, the county jail is still in a decade long limbo. Former Sheriff Desmond still remembers efforts to evacuate the facility that still has yet to be fully repaired or replaced.

“The jail administrator and his staff got the inmates out, and thank God they did, because all the cells were underwater,” he says.

The 911 center and Emergency Management Center were also housed in the same complex. EMC Colleen Flynn says both her office and the 911 center now have a new home where it’s high, dry, and equipped with all new resources.

“I have the weather forecast on this [screen], and then I have stream gauges in real time. I can literally watch the stream rise and fall,” Flynn explains while touring the new command center.

She also lost her own home to Tropical Storm Irene, but says she’s turned that hardship into an opportunity for others by creating new manuals and training tools.

“My house was pushed 25 feet off its foundation,” Flynn says while showing a photo of the damage on the cover of her instruction manual. “Our building code officials didn’t know they were responsible for floodplain administration as well, so I used my story to help train them on what to do during, before, and after an emergency or a flood in this book.”

“The storm was like a wakeup call. We’re not just a little country county out here. We’ve got to be ready for everything, but I feel very confident that people in charge down here now I’ve got it covered and we can survive,” says Desmond.

Every person we spoke to Friday says the biggest takeaway from their 2011 loss is a sense of sticking together that they can still feel today.

“There were people coming from all over the state to help and it was absolutely amazing. Left me speechless and that’s hard to do,” Flynn laughs.

“There were so many volunteer people from the fire departments and the ambulances. In Schoharie County, there’s no paid firemen and they’re all volunteers. So they came out and they did whatever they could for their community. They worked great with everyone,” says Desmond. “This is our home, and we have a lot of good neighbors and friends, and we all want to be together in this thing.”

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