‘Wonderful people’ aid rebound
Middleburgh residents band together to pump out mud, remove debris after rains
By Dennis Yusko
Published 8:35 pm, Saturday, June 15, 2013
Residents of this small village soaked up the damage Saturday from a severe thunderstorm that overwhelmed creeks, flooded up to 20 homes, closed roads and shops and traumatized some residents still recovering from Tropical Storm Irene.
At least 70 relief volunteers joined firefighters and emergency workers to pump out waist-high water and mud from 15 to 20 basements that were swamped in Friday afternoon’s flash flooding. Heavy rain overflowed the banks of several hillside streams and caused culverts to clog, sending water and debris north down Main Street.
The rushing water closed roads and stranded hundreds of Middleburgh schoolchildren for hours. A few shops remained closed Saturday as mud dried along downtown’s sidewalks and shops.
At the Middleburgh school district’s bus garage, located nearly a mile south from downtown, water from a nearby creek jumped its bank and deposited boulders, timber and debris along the district property and home of Evan Durfee and his girlfriend, Vanessa Porter, both 27.
Durfee replaced the home’s furnace and hot water heater due to severe flooding during Irene. On Friday, swirling flood waters entered the couple’s basement and carved a huge trench in their driveway. They spent Friday night and Saturday shoveling rocks, scraping mud and removing three-feet of water from the home’s bottom floor.
“Twenty minutes after the rain started, water headed right for our house, started rushing around it, ripping up the driveway and washing things away,” Durfee recalled Saturday.
Road crews worked most of the night to reopen the village’s roads. Flood waters had mostly receded by Saturday afternoon, and people were mopping up. The Middleburgh Barber Shop at the north end of the village stayed closed Saturday due to the storm, according to a note tacked to its door.
“The barber shop was flooded yesterday. By the grace of God, wonderful people — FRIENDS — came last night and cleaned the shop!! The floor is still damp — needs to dry more — so I will be closed today and reopen Monday,” the shopkeeper wrote.
A total of about 20 homes sustained damage, with the heaviest on Main Street, River Street and Straub Lane, said Josh DiBartolo, the director of Schoharie Recovery. The non-profit was founded after Tropical Storm Irene hit lashed the village in August 2011. On Saturday, DiBartolo rounded up dozens of volunteers to assist homeowners with help from Alison Bryant of Schoharie.
Three inches of rain fell in a few hours in parts of Schoharie County. Friday’s flood waters came from streams and small hillside waterways that backed up, not the giant Schoharie Creek at the foot of the village, DiBartolo said. The waters came very quickly, he said.
“This is particularly hard because these are the same houses that were flooded by Irene,” DiBartolo said. “We were only two-thirds of the way back from Irene.”
The latest storm could take weeks, if not months, to clean up, he said. Schoharie Area Long-Term Recovery (SALT) needs skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians and laborers. Donations can be sent to SALT, P.O. Box 777, Schoharie, NY 12157.
“Tensions are pretty high, but I think we have a handle on the immediate needs,” DiBartolo said. “I would say the bigger story is how quickly the community bands together.”