Bad memories return with flood
Schoharie County deals with another soaking two years after storm
By Paul Nelson
Flash flooding from downpours paralyzed traffic in sections of Schoharie County and stranded hundreds of Middleburgh schoolchildren for hours on Friday.
The heavy rain and the mess it caused had many in this rural county on edge — as it brought back memories of the devastating tropical storms of two years ago.
Middleburgh Elementary School students were sent back to their home room around 3:35 p.m., when a creek jumped its banks and Main Street became impassable. Four hours later, only two students remained inside the main office at the school, where Superintendent Michele Weaverworked the phones.
“They had some fun and they hopefully have a memory for years to come that they can tell their grandchildren,” said Weaver, noting the students had pizza, cookies and activities to keep them busy.
At one point, close to 450 students, including middle and high schoolers were being kept in the building. About 300 remained when the buses, which had to be rerouted, started to roll around 7 p.m. when the roads improved.
Some parents like Tricia Schaforth managed to either drive or walk to the school and sign their children out before the roads flooded.
“(The district) did a fabulous job and made the right decision,” said Schaforth, standing with her two daughters, Morgan, 11, and Sarah, 7. While she managed to get her girls, they didn’t make it too far because they ended up getting stuck on Main Street when the creek overflowed its banks.
Weaver said the rainstorms brought back memories of Tropical Storm Irene that lashed this community.
“I think that was certainly weighing on our students’ minds as well as our staff, having gone through such a terrible disaster less than two years ago,” she said.
Water damaged the blacktop of Vanessa Porter‘s driveway and flooded her basement on Main Street. Porter, who owns the home with her boyfriend, Evan Durfee, said she had the driveway repaved after Irene. The couple will also need a new boiler.
“You know anybody that wants a slightly flooded Greek revival?” said Porter, seemingly taking it all stride.
At 7 p.m., Schoharie County officials were advising against unnecessary travel and asked people to seek shelter where they are. The town and village of Schoharie and the village of Middleburgh were under a state of emergency. Small tributaries, ditches, and low lying areas are being watched and officials expect flooding in some basements and low-lying roads.
Route 145 was closed from the Middleburgh town line to River Street (Route 30) and other roads were reported to be washed out.
County officials said two separate storms produced 3 inches of rain on the eastern side and 1.5 to 3 inches of rain in the western end during a short period of time. Meteorologists received reports of mudslides and culverts washing out in Schoharie County after a series of thunderstorms passed over the area.
Radar suggested that a thunderstorm that hit near Ames around 3:30 p.m., brought heavy rain and fears of flash floods, the National Weather Service said.
The flood warning applied to western Montgomery Country, including Canajoharie, and the north central part of Schoharie County.
The good news is that Saturday’s forecast calls for lots of sunshine with comfortable temperatures.
Farther east, water from the Mohawk River spilled into the parking lot of Jumpin’ Jacks drive-in in Scotia early Friday.
“It looks like it’s pretty much near its peak right now,” weather service meteorologist Luigi Meccariello said during the day
At 1 a.m. Friday, the weather service reported the Hudson River in Troy had already crept slightly above flood stage and was expected to remain there until 11 p.m. Friday. The fast-rising river damaged several boats and docks at the Troy Boat Club — where $90,000 was spent on dock rebuilding after Irene hit, club Commodore Mike Lombardi said. There’s no insurance to cover the damage, which is still being assessed.
Many of the 30 boats were taken to safety via canal locks. Ten or 11 vessels remaining suffered varying degrees of damage, he said. None were swept over the dam downstream.
“We did the best that we could,” he said.
Jordan Carleo-Evangelist contributed to this story.