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Donors, volunteers help flood victims

September 1, 2011
By BARBARA COOK , The Leader Herald

FONDA - Tropical Storm Irene destroyed homes and businesses in the Mohawk Valley, but it could not destroy the goodwill of people throughout the area.

Through volunteer efforts and donations, the victims of the storm are gradually cleaning up and picking up the pieces of their lives.

Amsterdam has organized a volunteer effort to help flood victims, and area organizations and businesses are collecting donations.

Article Photos

Matthew Tino points out damage to the chicken coop at Jim Squillace’s home in Mill Point near the Schoharie Creek in Montgomery County.

The Leader-Herald/Barbara Cook

Bobby Klim, whose business, Prime Signs, is next door to his home on Park Street in Fonda, was able to gut his house and business in one day, thanks to "good, local people that care," he said.

Friends, family and business associates all came out to help him with the cleanup efforts.

"That kind of thing keeps you going," he said.

Klim said the water reached about 2 feet into his shop and two-thirds of the way back on the first floor of his home. He will have to replace the walls and floor of his house.


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Klim got his equipment out of the shop before the floodwaters took over, but lost cabinets, shelving and tools.

The flood in 2006 was almost identical to the one left by Tropical Storm Irene, said Klim. It took his business three years to recover from the 2006 flood, followed by struggles during the economic downturn. Now he is beginning the recovery process again. He said although he has considered moving to a less flood-prone area, it would be so expensive to do so that staying in the area where he and his wife have already put down roots is worth the risk.

Klim contacted his personal insurance agent but was told that FEMA would be handling the flood claims.

Jim Squillace owns Dairy Bar at Park and South Bridge streets, across from the Fonda Fairgrounds. Remembering the damage caused by the 2006 flood, Squillace put everything in the store up on shelves, took the drawers out of the cabinets and powered up the cooler through an outlet in the ceiling.

He took the soft-serve ice cream machines and his office furniture out of the building. When the water invaded, it didn't leave much damage, although he lost the hard ice cream. Squillace's foresight saved $35,000 worth of machinery and allowed him to quickly clean up the mess of water and mud. He was approved to reopen by the Health Department by Wednesday afternoon, but he might hold off because his home didn't fare as well as his business.

Squillace's house has withstood many storms since it was built near the Schoharie Creek in 1750, but Irene left about 16 inches of mud in the basement and 3 inches of water on the first floor. The creek bed shifted several hundred feet, sweeping away a 100-by-60-foot barn and 70-foot-tall concrete silo.

"The creek became a raging torrent," said Squillace.

Huge trees were tossed in the churning water, which he estimates reached depths of as much as 50 feet and a speed of about 60 mph. "When you see things like that, you realize how miniscule we are."

Some contents of the barn have been found about a mile downstream at the Mill Point Road bridge over the Schoharie Creek, including a four-wheeler and a log splitter. No evidence has been seen of the barn or silo.

Mark and Doreen Lavigna live in the west end of Amsterdam, on a point of land where Division Street and West Main Street meet. When the Mohawk River overflowed its banks Monday, their basement was filled with water, topping out on the steps leading into the kitchen. Doreen Lavigna was sitting in her driveway late Wednesday, using boiled water to wash pots retrieved from the basement. Her husband, visibly weary, was carrying out ruined appliances with the help of a friend.

The Lavignas have flood insurance, but have been waiting three days for an insurance adjuster to arrive. They've already lost $600 worth of meat that was in two freezers in the basement, as well as all of the appliances that were in the basement. Mark Lavigna had ordered a trash bin, at a cost of $400, and then found out the city will pick up any debris left by the road.

Shelters, power


According to Dwight Schwabrow, director of emergency management in Montgomery County, a new shelter has opened at the Florida Municipal Building on Fort Hunter Road. Schwabrow said the shelter in Amsterdam no longer was needed and has closed.

A news release from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane's office said the state of emergency for the city ended at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

National Grid is still reporting scattered power outages throughout Montgomery and Fulton counties. Schwabrow said the company worked well into the night trying to restore power in the Fort Hunter area.

According to William Reynolds of the New York State Department of Transportation, the only bridge still closed in Montgomery County is the one on Route 5S over the Schoharie Creek at the Glen and Florida line. Reynolds said no bridges are closed in Fulton County.

Reynolds said he doesn't know when portions of Route 5S east of Fultonville will reopen.

"As soon as we're able to get to it, upon floodwater recession, we will assess whatever damage may have occurred and make repairs accordingly," he said.

He said crews are working feverishly to reopen closed bridges and roadways.

Volunteers, donations

In Amsterdam, the mayor's office and volunteer Thom Georgia are spearheading an effort to send volunteers to homes and businesses. Volunteers are needed to clear debris, bag garbage and hand out supplies, Georgia said. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 50 volunteers had registered to help at sites across the city. To volunteer, people can call either 705-1425 or 841-4311.

Fulmont Community Action Agency is collecting donations at three locations in Fulton and Montgomery counties, said Executive Director Denis Wilson. At 53 Church St. in Gloversville, Riverfront Center in Amsterdam and 200 Canal St. in Fort Plain, people may drop off clothing, food and small household goods, as well as cash and checks. Monetary donations also may be mailed to P.O. Box 835, Fonda, NY 12068 with a note specifying the money is for flood assistance. Wilson said 100 percent of all contributions go to flood victims.

Deputy Executive Director Ann Black said the centers also are accepting donations of water and cleaning supplies.

Barbara Cook can be reached at



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