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Flooding from Irene cripples Mohawk Valley as residents flee

August 29, 2011
By AMANDA WHISTLE , The Leader Herald

AMSTERDAM - Emergency personnel and law enforcement in Montgomery County are still assessing damage caused by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene's heavy rainfall and wind gusts that reached 60 miles per hour and are calling the damage so far the worst they've seen as the county remains under a state of emergency.

Fulton County officials warned residents about traffic backups in Johnstown because of the closing of Route 5, Route 5S and the New York State Thruway. Both Route 5 and 5S are closed because of flooding. The Thruway is closed between Amsterdam and Canajoharie.

National Grid reported more than 20,000 in the region were without power and brought in crews from the Midwest and other power companies as mutual aid to assist in repairing power lines.

Article Photos

The Fonda Fairgrounds and Fonda Speedway are pictured from the air, alongside the flooded Mohawk River.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

"We've never seen flooding like this before. Nothing this severe. Right now, it's reached places that it's never reached before," Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick said.

The most damage he said, was at Guy Park Manor, the Revolutionary era property of Guy Johnson, Sir William Johnson's nephew.

As the sun came up this morning the light gave way to views of the building, surrounded by the Mohawk River's waters and the bottom corner of the building washed out.

The Walter Elwood Museum relocated in 2009 to Guy Park Manor.

"It's really distressing," Culick said.

Culick said this morning police were assessing damage street by street and determining whether to open roads after working all night.

"Right now it's at West Main and Pine streets," Culick said of the flooding. "St. Mary's Hospital evacuated last night. All their patients were diverted to different hospitals. It stopped at Carmichael Street and Division street and from that point forward it's pretty much starting to recede now."

Culick estimated the water had receded about 10 feet since the rain stopped.

Montgomery County's Emergency Management Director Dwight Schwabrow said engineers from the state Department of Transportation are inspecting a number of closed bridges throughout the county, including the bridge that links Fonda and Fultonville over the Mohawk River.

"I have no idea how long that process could take. Obviously, numerous bridges need to be inspected and cleared before they can be reopened," he said. He said he wasn't sure how close the water came to it, but the Fonda Fairgrounds flooded after trailers hauled rides and concession stands up to a shelter at Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Sunday afternoon.

Fair officials said this morning the fair will begin Thursday evening.

"This at least rivals, and I believe we're going to find that it exceeds, the damage that occurred in 2006," Schwabrow said. "The only difference is instead of being an event primarily upcounty and throughout the county, this event struck the center and at the [east] end of the county."

He said a mobile home and some other homes were reportedly destroyed by flood waters in Burtonsville in the town of Charleston.

The Schoharie Creek in Burtonsville rose to 15.3 feet from less than 2 feet at 7 a.m. Sunday, surpassing the 6-foot flood stage and the 12.9-foot record. It had receded to 13.42 feet this morning.

Charleston Supervisor Shayne T. Walters said this morning he was without power and hadn't spoken to any Burtonsville residents since Sunday afternoon when they were evacuating.

"I'm not even a stone's throw from the highest point in Montgomery County, and we have roads up here with the shoulders gone. I've lived here 48 years and I've never seen that in my lifetime," Walters said of some damage caused by Flat Creek, which flows into the Canajoharie Creek.

Schwabrow said there were no reports of injuries or fatalities throughout the county, and companies traveled down to Montgomery County to assist with evacuation.

Schwabrow said the county's annex building on Park Street was flooded as was the Department of Public Works building, but most of the equipment was moved to higher ground before flooding.

Montgomery County declared a state of emergency at 1 p.m. and that will remain in effect for five days, though it could be extended or shortened, Schwabrow said.

He said members of the Board of Supervisors and county department heads met this morning to assess the damage.

Canajoharie Fire Chief Frank Nestle said the village, hit hard in 2006, escaped flooding from the Canajoharie Creek.

"The only thing we had was wind damage," Nestle said. "There was no flooding. It was at flood stage and never came over the walls."

Nestle said about 25 Canajoharie firefighters were dispatched at 6:30 a.m. Sunday on calls and didn't stop until 2:30 a.m. today after assisting Fultonville with evacuations.

"We were right back at it at 4:30 a.m.," he said.

Nestle said a portion of Orchard Street in the village is shut down with trees and wires and National Grid reported it would likely be one to two days before power would be back on.

Nestle said the Canajoharie firefighters will be headed to Fultonville to help with pumpouts and fire police for the day.

Amanda Whistle can be reached at



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