Saugerties copes with storm aftermath

(Photo by Robert Ford)

Residents of Lighthouse Drive spent the weekend cleaning out the lower floors of their homes, throwing out hundreds of pounds of wet insulation, sheetrock, waterlogged TVs, furniture and mattresses that were ruined when more than four feet of water swept up the Esopus Creek from the Hudson River during Hurricane Sandy.

It was the combination of a full moon, a high tide, and a storm surge coming up the river and into the creek that wreaked havoc, said many of the residents, unlike last year’s Hurricane Irene that washed out their homes with inches of rain.

And while residents said that this year’s storm was much worse, even though it dropped less rain than Irene, they showed their resiliency, saying they would never move, no matter how much damage they suffered from storms.

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They also showed their senses of humor.

One family, who piled up almost 100 bags of wet, soggy insulation ruined when six feet of water poured into their basement, put out a sign on the mess reading “Yard Sale.” They also put out a waterlogged wall clock that marked the time the storm hit. Further up the road, another homeowner placed a sign reading “Sandy was here” on a pile of debris taken from the home.

Normally taciturn residents took time out from their labors to chat with the many “lookie-loos,” whose cars, at times, jammed the narrow one-way street.

Peggy and Charlie Livermore, whose home fronts the Esopus Creek (and last week became part of the creek), they got out early when they heard that Sandy would come to town with a four-to-six-foot storm surge. “We went up to Catskill to our daughter’s home,” Peggy said.

Cleaning up the damage to their rec room, its waterlogged sheetrock removed and everything ruined including a large screen TV, Peggy swept up smaller bits of debris. “Irene wasn’t as bad as this,” she said.

“And even this wasn’t as bad for us as it was for people to the south of us,” Charlie added. “Ninety-eight percent of the time, it’s great to live here, but two percent of the time – not so much.”

Some residents, rather than trying to clean up the mess themselves, hired companies to come in and do the job.

Andrew Rankel and John Beever purchased a PuroClean franchise last year after seeing the damage caused by Irene. The business cleans out flood-stricken homes and does mold remediation.

The Kingston-based pair cleaned up three Lighthouse Drive homes last week. “This was a category three,” said Rankle, adding that the rating is based on the amount of damage.

“We take out carpets and sheet rock, set up dehumidifiers to dry everything up, and then spray an anti-bacterial throughout the impacted area to prevent mold,” he added.

But homes weren’t the only things damaged in the storm. The Malden-based Arm-of-the-Sea Theater company that houses its paper mache puppets in a building along the Esopus Creek near Cantine Island was hit hard as well.

Patrick Wadden, co-founder of Arm-of-the-Sea, said that it was “a twist of poetic justice” when the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy soaked props and characters from productions that had climate change as their theme. All told, materials from 14 productions were damaged or ruined, Wadden said, when the surge came up at about 3 a.m. and swept into the studio and storage area.

“As company member Carl Welden noted,” said Wadden, “It’s not that water and paper mache don’t mix; it’s that they mix too well.”

Wadden explained that paper mache is pretty much like kids have made it in art class for years with paper and paste.”And when it gets hit by water, that’s not good,” he said. “If we get it out of the water quickly enough, however, then we can save it.”

The theater company is grateful to the town, he said, who lent them a heated space at Cantine Field to lay the items out to let them dry. “We just don’t have that type of space here at the studio,” he said. Residents of the neighboring Cantine Island co-housing community also helped the theater company to salvage items after the water began to recede.

Materials for use in school productions to take place this week were already loaded into vehicles and were not damaged by the flood, Wadden said. They plan to survey the damages and review where to go from here.

“Being forced to empty out three decades of work has made us see many of the old characters in a new light,” Wadden said. “Our music director, Dean Jones, suggested we ‘gather together the survivors and make one awesome extravaganza.’”

To make a donation to the theater company’s storm repair fund, visit www.armofthesea.org/donate.

While the theater company and residents are still cleaning up and drying out, Saugerties Supervisor Kelly Myers is taking on the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for waiting until the day before the storm hit to stop releasing water from the Ashokan Reservoir, and starting up again right after the storm passed through.

“There was no email notification,” Myers wrote in a prepared statement. “I was called on my cell phone late this afternoon and notified by Erik Kight.”

According to Myers, when she told Kight that the DEP’s action was unacceptable, she was told that her only recourse was to call DEC, where she received only the public complaints hotline recording number.

“DEP’s failure to cease releases from the Ashokan reservoir in time to allow sufficient transit time for released water to exit the Esopus Creek prior to the onset of the hurricane clearly demonstrates a callous arrogance to human suffering and a disrespect for the residents of Ulster County,” Myers added, suggesting that the governor replace DEP Commissioner Paul Rush.

“DEP’s culture of complete disregard for impacted watershed communities must change or there will be disastrous effects that significantly endanger the public welfare of our communities,” she concluded.

While residents were suffering from the effects of the powerful storm, a majority of local gas stations were jacking up their prices for a gallon of gas by 10 cents a gallon or more. At one point, the Mobile station at the intersection of Route 212/Ulster Avenue and Kings Highway hiked its prices up by 20 cents a gallon. When motorists voted with their wallets by not buying gas there, they lowered that price by 10 cents.

And while many stations were taking advantage of people’s misery, several stations were supporting their customers by not adjusting their prices, including the Hess station and Stewart’s on Route 212 and their location in the middle of town.

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