AUSABLE FORKS — Faced with damage from Tropical Storm Irene, Russ Bailey went a different route than some victims.
The blacksmith and craftsman from Whallonsburg decided not to go through the FEMA buyout program.
He was one of the local people who stopped by the Town of Jay Community Center on Tuesday for “One Year After: Resources and Recovery,” an event hosted by officials from Essex and Clinton counties, United Way of the Adirondack Region and Project Hope.
The gymnasium was set up as a resource center, as it was one year ago, but this time the agencies focused on needs that have still not been met. Among those on hand were the American Red Cross, Emergency Services, Community Resources, Housing Assistance Program, Office for the Aging, Mental Health, Social Services and Public Health.
OUSTED FROM HOME
Bailey discussed his situation with Bruce Misarski, director of housing assistance in Essex County.
“I had some standing water after the spring flooding, but with Irene I had six feet of water in my shop,” Bailey said. “Since then, I’ve had to live elsewhere and am paying rent, as well as my mortgage. I have a fair amount of debt. I have a lot of questions, and I need to know what I have to do to rebuild.
Looking over at the next table, set up for the Office of the Aging, Bailey quipped, “I’m not old enough for that, but I have aged 10 years since Irene.
“As humans, we stand on our records,” he said. “I have been there (at his residence) 16 years. I am still wary. This was not just a 100-year flood. In the future, I will be prepared for it, as I wouldn’t bet against it happening again.”
Reflecting on the flood, Bailey said, “It was surreal. I was concerned about my pets, and the next day, I swam back to the house. My pony was gone for a month but returned on its own.”
Gary Burke of Upper Jay also recalled that day vividly as he spoke with Gretchen Sando and Aline Pepe of Project Hope.
“The rising water came up like filling a bathtub. At noon, it was low, but by 3, I had to leave.”
Afterward, Burke had a difficult time convincing authorities that he had lived there.
“It was my primary residence, but they said it was a vacation rental. So I went to Mike Mascarenas (director of the Essex County Community Resources Department), and he straightened things out. Fortunately, I had flood insurance.”
Keene Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee feels, overall, the recovery has progressed well.
“We still have to build a retaining wall by Golf Brook by the firehouse and have received a verbal promise from the DEC by Marcy Field for repairs there. Fortunately, we have not lost any full-time residents moving out of the area. Mike Mascarenas of the county has done a great job with helping with buyouts.”
Gretchen Sando, program coordinator of Project Hope, knows there still are concerns.
“We mostly listen. A lot of folks have been able to move on, but there are still those displaced and not sure where they will go next. There are some who are out of money.
“Because of the anniversary, there are some who are reliving the events with imagery, are fearful and having a hard time sleeping. None of this is uncommon. It’s part of the process, like when you lose a loved one.”
Thomas and Judy Pulsifer of Jay also went to the event for information.
“We thought it was just people by the river who could get help but found out in July that we could get assistance for our destroyed roof,” Mr. Pulsifer said. “The shingles were blown off by the high winds. By then, it was too late for FEMA. So I called Randy Douglas’s office, and they said to come down.”
At a press conference, Ferebee, Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Congressman Bill Owens, Dede Scozzafava from Gov. Cuomo’s Office and United Way Director John Bernardi spoke, with the recurring theme being the cooperation of neighbors, politicians and agencies and the resilience of the inhabitants of the North Country.
Douglas said recovery is an ongoing process that now includes keeping citizens out of harm’s way and education.
“I don’t believe in a 100-year flood,” he said. “We need to be better prepared, even little things like strapping down propane tanks. It’s a tedious process. We still have tons of debris out there, but we will be better prepared.”
Email Alvin Reiner: firstname.lastname@example.org