Motorists rescued as Hurricane Ida floods roads in New Paltz

The swollen Wallkill River from Springtown bridge along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail last Thursday evening. (Photo by Erin Quinn)

Roads were closed, fields and farms were flooded and cars submerged during this past Wednesday and Thursday as Hurricane Ida left some traces of its presence in Ulster County after touching down in Louisiana on Sunday.

Despite the County having closed several roads that led west of the Wallkill River in New Paltz that were flooded — including Route 299, Springtown Road, Dug Road, portions of Huguenot Street and Old Kingston Road — some motorists decided to drive past the barricades, with at least two of them becoming submerged and drifting northward. “We did have a vehicle last evening become submerged between Wallkill View Farm and the bridge,” said New Paltz Police chief Rob Lucchesi. “There was another incident on Dug Road. The waters were high and the current was strong, and that’s why the barricades were up; but some people chose to go around them.”

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The chief said that there were no injuries reported, but emphasized that when people attempt to drive on roads closed due to flooding, “It puts our emergency responders at risk, because they have to go out and make the rescue. Those roads are closed for a reason, and people need to respect Mother Nature. That water was high and it was moving fast.” The car in question was left to float, while the operators were rescued, until it could be towed.

According to Lucchesi, the New Paltz Fire Department responded to a lot of calls, including the submerged cars and flooded basements and an array of situations caused by the heavy rains. “From an operational standpoint, we have to make sure that we have emergency responders stationed west of the Wallkill before the event occurs, so that we can get to people if they need us. That goes for the Police Department, the Rescue Squad and the Fire Department. We also work in cooperation with other enforcement agencies like the State Police and County Sheriff’s Office to ensure we’re able to respond to a call.”

With all of the rain that fell, the chief said that in his estimation, “We were lucky. The roads are open now and there were no injuries reported.”

Farms and gardens and basements were not so fortunate, as the rains took their toll on all three. New Paltz’s bountiful village communal gardens, the Gardens for Nutrition, were completely flooded out, as they lie in a field by the banks of the Wallkill River. The sunflowers that line Route 299 from the bridge to Wallkill View Farms — a hallmark of late August and early fall, designed and planted by the Ferrante family — were looking ragged and disheveled this Friday morning, many of them still underwater and the rest attempting to lift their heavy heads towards the sun.

Echoing the concern nationwide and worldwide about warming temperatures and increased flooding brought on by global warming, New Paltz Climate Action groups have been posting relevant information on both the Village and Town of New Paltz websites.  The Climate Smart Communities Task Force has a flood map PowerPoint that illuminates the reasons behind increased flooding, severe weather events, record heat waves and a pattern that is putting our entire ecosystem — human and more than human — at great risk. These links to government websites were provided to Hudson Valley One by Janelle Peotter, the New Paltz Climate Smart Coordinator.

To learn more, go to www.townofnewpaltz.org/climate-smart-communities-task-force. For the Flood Map PowerPoint presentation, click on the left side: www.townofnewpaltz.org/climate-smart-communities-task-force/files/flood-map-powerpoint-presentation. More information on climate change impacts on New Paltz is available at www.townofnewpaltz.org/climate-smart-communities-task-force/files/summary-points-new-paltz-climate-vulnerability-assessment. These same resources can also be accessed via the Village of New Paltz website at www.villageofnewpaltz.org/climate-smart-task-force.

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