As Hurricane Ida charged her way through Orange County, some of the hardest hit towns have been fortunate to have not suffered any loss of life. But property and infrastructure damage is massive and will be both extensive, punishing to residents, and could be financially crushing to both individuals, the County, and municipalities. On Tuesday night of this week, Blooming Grove’s Supervisor Rob Jeroloman and Highway Superintendent Wayne Kirkpatrick reported on property damage, which included the collapse of 3 bridges and spent so much time at the sites planning repairs that Kirkpatrick quipped the supervisor was made an honorary Highway Department member. May’s Field, the site of many of the town’s athletics, was covered in a foot of water. At the end of the field a foot of water rose in little more than an hour. It is closed until repairs can be made and many of its activities will be held at Lasser Park.
But the Town of Cornwall was hit even harder, reporting 7.5 inches of rain. Dozens of homes were flooded, and some houses by the curve of the Moodna, were victims of major flooding that may have in fact been life-threatening.
Infrastructure damage to roads and bridges is the top financial threat. Washingtonville’s Mayor Bucco stood by The Bull Road collapse where a truck was rescued from the edge of the cavernous hole. Residents on Brian Court walk a footbridge to get to vehicles parked by Clove Road and have no idea how long it will be before any kind of normal access will return. Jeroloman and Kirkpatrick discussed possibilities such as whether a 4-wheel ATV could bring a dumpster across for their weekly trash while they wait for a new bridge and road.
The main concern at present is what kind of reimbursement the towns can receive from Federal, State and County Disaster Funds. Clearly the damage is in the millions, but in order to receive a Major Disaster Designation the stakes are high, reportedly a criteria that might be set at around $30 Million. Whether countywide damage will reach that criteria depends on the extent of damage that occurred in all of the county municipalities combined. Meanwhile, Senator James Skoufis’ office says the key will be careful itemization of every detail. Of the three disaster categories the one that municipalities are relatively assured of are the reimbursements for actual damage during the storm. But prevention of reoccurrence will be critical for each town’s future welfare. With Ida, for instance, Blooming Grove highway department staff cleaned out storm drains ahead of time and were able to empty equipment stored in the Mays Field garage just in time to prevent damage and help the water drain. Fortunately the new electric in the concession are was placed at 52″, high enough to avoid damage. But Kirkpatrick says that he thinks some improvement in the links between Beaver Dam and the Moodna Creek could be better managed next time. For instance, if Beaver Dam Lake’s sluice is opened for a time in anticipation of a storm, it will have better holding capacity when the storm arrives
In the end, residents and officials throughout the area are sitting on the edges of their chairs, hoping that adequate funding comes in to make them whole again. Cornwall residents even pushed for a petition to be written and sent to Governor Hochul, detailing the catastrophic losses that they believe justify them, and other county residents who are hoping to be given a Major Disaster Designation.
Editor’s Note: In this week’s Orange County Post (paper copy), two of the captions on the cover were inadvertantly reversed. The top picture was the Brian Court bridge collapse. The bottom right picture was the Bull Road bridge collapse. We regret the error.