Shandaken damage, hamlet by hamlet

Our Shandaken correspondent, Tom Rinaldo, did a tour of the damage in Shandaken caused by Hurricane Irene this week. This is his report, with additional reporting by Julia Reischel, Aaron Bennet, and Carol Seitz. Above: Woodland Valley Bridge during Irene.


A quick journey through Chichester reveals less damage suffered by that hamlet as a result of Hurricane Irene than most.

An exception to that was at the private Grubman Road, where the once-substantial bridge over Stony Clove Creek collapsed into the stream.

A significant tragedy was barely averted on Grubman Road Tuesday morning at 2am. A woman from Hunter got lost while driving home on Rte. 214. Not knowing her exact whereabouts, she turned onto Grubman Road, unaware that thee was a bridge out in front of her. Had she not hit a tree, she would have plunged into the Stony Clove. She was reportedly rescued by an ambulance and taken to a hospital.

Sharon Umhey, the postmaster for Chichester, witnessed the collapse of the Stony Clove bridge in person from her nearby property. She said that it was dramatic: first, the concrete abutment under the bridge gave way, and then the bridge itself fell into the stream. nearby. An unoccupied home damaged in an earlier flood was completely taken by the surging Stony Clove.

Another resident living by the stream next to the bridge evacuated on Saturday night. That home seemingly came through all right, but a guest cottage next to it now juts partway over the steam, supported only by a concrete slab beneath it.

Sharon Umhey noted that several homes along Rte. 214 just below the Chichester post office suffered losses of large portions of their backyards to flooding erosion.

Silver Hollow Road, which is home to many Chichester residents, came through the storm very well. Near house number 176 the roadbed is cracked partly with one lane at risk of caving. The shoulders are gone at a couple of points along that road.

Mount Tremper

Problems were worse in Mount Tremper, where Rte. 212 drops down from the four-way intersection with Plank and Wittenberg roads to a low-lying area before climbing back up to meet Rte. 28. Significant damage was done to several homes by flooding there.

A trailer behind the post office was displaced six feet by floodwaters. At least two nearby homes on the same side of the road suffered damage also, with at least one of those houses having probably significant structural damage. Residents there reported being evacuated early Sunday morning by fire department personnel as water was just starting to flood them. They said water rushed down the road from the dike above them.  On Tuesday, they were back inspecting their house.

Across the street, at least two other homes showed clear signs of flooding with doors wide open to help air out their interiors.

The Mount Tremper post office itself seems intact from the outside but remained closed on Tuesday. There were also repeated problems along Plank Road heading from Mount Tremper towards Phoenicia. At two points along the road, trees had fallen down onto power lines along the creekside. On Tuesday, they leaned dangerously against them, pulling the lines down sharply toward the road.

At several points on Plank Road, whatever shoulders there once were on that narrow street were gone, so that the lanes are bordered by treacherously low ditches. Erosion was evident at the base of some private road driveways, including those of the Zen Mountain Monastery and Mount Tremper Arts.

At two points along Plank Road, the road has been washed away to a single lane. Several yards of houses along Plank Road are covered with mud. It is possible that floodwaters have reached up into homes there.

Janice Goodman was in Mount Tremper on Sunday during the flood. She had this to say in an email about what it was like:

It was horrific.   Of course no power,  and probably won’t be restored until Friday at the earliest.  Every bridge around me was swept away which left us trapped within a ½ mile radius,   the feeling of isolation was the worst.  Every once and awhile we got in the car to listen to the radio but then had to worry about wasting gas not knowing whether stations would be operative.   A friend lost her house to the Esopus, and we watched folks being boated out of sunken homes.  The water rage was so great that it pulled up a large section of Rte 28. There was no road clearance until [Monday] morning when I did leave.

Fox Hollow Road

Up at Fox Hollow Road, emergency workers managed to reach houses with a temporary dump of stones. Workers spent Monday pouring rocks into the Esopus Creek to create a temporary bridge to reach scores of stranded households.

Eric Hansen, a homeowner on Fox Hollow Road, was adamant on Tuesday about the need to have cell phone service in Shandaken.

"The land lines failed," he said. "They would break up, go on and off, and when we tried calling people, there were no answers. Even walky-talkies would have helped. But people weren't even coordinating the walky-talky channels."

Hansen said that for two days, Fox Hollow Road was cut off from the outside world.

"Someone said that Phoenica had washed away," he said. "You wouldn't believe the rumors. We heard the dam broke up at Gilboa. We were sitting around for two days with rumors flying around, and nobody could get out and nobody could get any information. There were 100 to 150 of us."

Hansen reported that the floodwaters rose shockingly fast on Sunday. .

"It all happened in twenty minutes," he said. The rise that caused the flooding. "The last twenty minutes, the creek was coming up a couple of inches a minute."

Hansen insisted that the Esopus needs to be dredged to stop flooding on the Esopus Creek.

"The creek is too shallow," he said. "It's got to be dredged. And not just by Phoenicia. The boulders that tumble down, they were coming down like thunder, and all they were doing was filling in at the bottom. The creek back in 1968 was twenty feet deep here. Now it's down to six inches. All it can do is spread wide."

Five houses in Fox Hollow were significantly damaged. In one area where there had been eight cabins, there were now only six.

Another Fox Hollow resident who didn't give his name said that his whole family had to be rescued by emergency responders as the waters were rising.

Woodland Valley

According to Rob Stanley tonight, Woodland Valley was hit hard as well. Much of the road has been damaged, and one bridge was lost. Still, Woodland Valley residents were able to leave by putting planks across the washed-out bridge, Stanley said.

Carol Seitz, a Woodland Valley resident and president of the Woodland Community Association, reported on the impact of Irene's flooding on her her blog, the Woodland Valley View, on Tuesday night:

[A] lot of the major damage on WV road was in the top of the valley. As I told you in my last post, back in the Woodland Park Association, the bridge that goes to Ernie Person's house is gone. And I don't mean damaged, I mean gone. Ernie has built a makeshift walking bridge so everyone can get to their houses. They all had the foresight to leave their cars on Woodland Valley Road.

Also in the Woodland Park Association, the small bridge that leads to the back part of the club on 7 mile road is gone.

If your house was away from the creek you are probably fine. If you are next to the creek you might have some erosion. And you should check your house or have someone check it for you as soon as you can.

Fawn Hill and Pantherkill roads have damages as well. BE VERY CAREFUL DRIVING IN THE VALLEY AND UP YOUR DRIVEWAY THE FIRST TIME YOU COME BACK TO THE VALLEY! Try and do it in daylight if possible. Many driveways are seriously rutted. The highway department has done a great job of temporarily repairing the roads but most of these fixes are only short term so people can travel safely. So beware!!

Oliverea/Big Indian

Around 11pm, Aaron Bennett posted this update about Oliverea Valley on our live blog. Great news! Bennett reports that some people on the road have their landlines restored. Here's his report in full:

Just came out of Oliverea Road a couple hours ago. Much more passable now. According to the county workers - who have been doing an amazing job in there getting roads back in shape and bridges driveable - "the big guns are coming in tomorrow" - I think that means some real heavy equipment. Vehicular access to the Alpine Inn has been restored by folks coming together and constructing a bridge over a gully on an old log road that connects Maben Hollow and Burnham Hollow. A couple brothers now living in VT came down to help their parents out! Update on the gully just above what is known locally as "Crazy Nell's": Chuck Perez (Big Indian Service Center) told me today that he took the time to measure Julia's favorite gully above Full Moon today - 55' from double yellow line to double yellow line. 27' from surface to bedrock - unbelievable! That little creek used to have an operational USGS gage on it until funding dried up a couple years someone can un-earth those streamflow numbers....would be interesting to see the historic high and compare that with what happened Sunday (which would have to be an estimate). Took some more pictures that i haven't seen anyone posted yet - Eagle Mtn Rd Bridge - totally trashed; and took some from the end of obliterated Deer Lane.

ALSO some good news - many folks in the BIO Valley (short for Big Indian-Oliverea in case you were wondering) land-lines are back! These homes - in case you want to give them a call include: Josh and Michelle Brown, the Bedell's, I think Bill and Patti Rudge, Full Moon (i think), Ralph Combe Jr, and some others. Now's the time to try to make that call. Lesson here - don't ever give that old-school land line entirely.

Bennett has many more Big Indian and Oliverea photos here.

Below: Woodland Valley Road during Irene.