Fulton Irene update

Shannon Hayes, an author and grass-fed beef farmer in the town of Fulton, New York in Schoharie County, reports on her blog that her family farm is still cut off from the outside world three days after Hurricane Irene. They are running their generator for a few hours a day. The road to their farm is impassable, and they expect a long wait before normalcy is restored. Hayes' post, excerpted here, is excellent, worth reading in full:

We were safely outside the storm zone, but we figured we’d lose power, so we ground extra coffee, filled the bathtub and several jars with water, and made sure the yard was picked up of debris in the event of high winds. Down at the farm, the chickens and turkeys were brought in off pasture. We scattered wood shavings on the barn floor, tied up panels for temporary pens, then secured tarps along the open front to protect them from the rain. Dad and mom herded the sheep a mile up Heathen Creek road to the other farm we rent, which is on higher ground. We assumed we were over-prepared. We hoped we were.

We weren’t. We are too cut-off from the world right now to know what, exactly, came through Schoharie County on Sunday. Maybe it was just the fringe of the storm. Maybe Irene herself was checking out life in the Catskills. All I know was that at 9:30 Sunday morning, we lost power, as predicted. At 10 am, our phone rang with an automated message from our county’s emergency response system. Earlier storm predictions had been greatly underestimated for our area. If we were in an area prone to flooding, the message told us to evacuate immediately. As best as I can figure, only those of us high and safe on the mountain tops got the call. Most folks down below had already lost service. But even high up here, we heard the evacuation sirens.

SchoharieCountyresidents make their lives in three different habitats. On top of the mountains, in the mountains, and down in the valleys. Bob and I live on top of a mountain. We watched the rains with interest and played with our daughters. My family’s farm, Sap Bush Hollow, is in the mountains, flanked on two sides by ordinarily pristine, calm mountain streams. Mom and dad sat in their house and watched them rage over the creek banks, come frighteningly close to the house, and cause the roads boil and rip. They were so fast and furious, one lane of the road on either side of the farm completely fell away, leaving a ten foot drop to the raging water. Two days after the storm, portions of the County Route 4 continue to fall away. It is no longer passable on the East side. The west side is not far behind. The bridge toHeathen Creek Roadwas completely washed away, separating us from our sheep.

We were the lucky ones. Last I heard, we still couldn’t get to the Middleburgh orSchoharieValleys, where most of the vegetable farmers and many of our friends had their homes. I presume everyone got out safely, but I don’t think they had anything more than the shirts on their backs. We don’t know where folks are at this point.