Editor's note: This story was submitted to the Watershed Post on August 31. In our haste to publish information about the hardest-hit towns, we have not published it until today, September 6. Thanks to Lillian Browne for keeping us posted on some of the areas where the worst was feared, but which were spared from some of the devastation visited on other towns in the Catskills. --Ed.
In the aftermath of the devastating flood of 2006, the Village of Walton and Town of Colchester stood ready for Hurricane Irene on Sunday, August 28th. The flood waters never materialized as predicted and social media sources such as Facebook and live-feed blogs helped to prepare and notify residents in these communities.
Village of Walton Mayor Patrick Meredith stated that in a meeting at 7:00 PM on Sunday at the Walton Fire House, Delaware County Emergency Services predicted that there would be six feet of water on Delaware Street. That amount of water would have rivaled the totals from 2006. Meredith, with Town of Walton Supervisor Bruce Dolph, collectively declared a state of emergency which included a voluntary evacuation. Working closely with Walton Fire Chief Bill Brown, emergency personnel started evacuation at 9:00 PM on Delaware Street, Griswold Street, North Street, Townsend Street and Liberty Street. NYSEG personnel followed emergency personnel to disconnect electric and gas service on the evacuated streets, whether or not residents chose to evacuate. “Based on our experience from 2006, these were the first areas to flood.” Meredith said, “We wanted to be prepared and proactive this time, instead of reactive. We wanted to err on the side of extreme caution.”
In 2006 the tributaries and brooks which feed into the Delaware River were a major contributing factor to flooding in the village. According to Meredith, that was not the case on Sunday. Meredith stated that there was minor flooding and no damage to infrastructure or streets in the village. Meredith said that he feels the village was more than prepared for a major event that really never happened. He said that everything went according to plan and the only thing that he would like to see done differently is to have more accurate predicted flood levels available to prepare for a flooding event. Fire Chief Bob Brown stated that the Delaware River crested at 13.8 feet which caused slight flooding on Delaware Street between the intersections of North and Griswold Street.
Meredith thanked all fire and emergency personnel, as well as the village Department of Public Works Personnel, Code Enforcement Officer Stephen Dutcher, police personnel, Delaware Emergency Services and town personnel.
The Town of Colchester did not fare as well as the Village of Walton during the flood. According to Highway Superintendent Kenneth Eck, Jr., Holiday Brook Road and Shinhopple Brook Road have both suffered serious damage. The approach to the bridge on Holiday Brook Road has been partially removed due to the flood waters. Eck stated on Tuesday that he expected to receive permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for structural repairs to the stream bank failure of the Beaverkill in Cooks Falls and Horse Brook. Eck said he is anticipating additional permits from the DEC to remove gravel deposits at the mouth of Shinhopple Brook and Campbell Brook.
Eck indicated that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the release of water from the Pepacton Reservoir in Downsville, advised a release of 30,000 cubic feet per second, which would have been a major catastrophe for residents downstream of the dam. According to Eck, the biggest release recorded has been between 19,000 and 20,000 cubic feet per second. To prepare for the release and flooding an evacuation was called for in Downsville as well. The actual release was recorded in the vicinity of 1300 cubic feet per second, nowhere near the original projection. Eck stated that there was no damage to the highway building under construction and the highway department currently being used only suffered approximately ¼ inch of water through one-tenth of the building.
Like Meredith, Eck did not feel that the municipality was over-prepared, “It is better to be safe than sorry.”
Dealing with fallen trees is part of the emergency cleanup effort. “So far we have removed over 400 trees from our roads. We will probably remove between 50 and 100 more during the upcoming month.” Eck says. Eck advises the traveling public to use extreme caution on Holiday Brook Road and Shinhopple Brook Road.