FORT PLAIN - U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D.-N.Y., visited residents of Fort Plain on Wednesday to speak with residents of Abbott Street, whose homes were destroyed in Friday's flooding.
Schumer promised he would do his best to get federal disaster area status for the neighborhood, giving victims access to Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.
Standing on Abbott Street with family members of Ethel Healey, who was killed in Friday's flooding, Schumer looked over the damage wrought by the Otsquago Creek overflowing Friday morning.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks with the press Wednesday in Fort Plain, promising to push for federal disaster aid for the flood-ravaged community. At right is Mike Sheeley, a grandson of Ethel Healey, who died when Friday’s flooding washed away her mobile home.
"We will do everything we can to bring the needed federal aid to the people of Fort Plain," Schumer said. "The state has asked for an emergency declaration, and I am on the phone with FEMA and the White House today. Given how bad the damage is here, it is a virtual certainty that the president will give us that declaration."
Schumer said the declaration could be given in a week's time or sooner.
Schumer said federal grants could be available for those who have lost homes, cars and more.
"There will be help for small businesses as well," Schumer said.
Schumer said the federal government will reimburse 90 to 100 percent of costs incurred to Montgomery County through the storm, including overtime and road repair costs.
"FEMA is a lot better today than they were," Schumer said. "We have lit a fire under them since Hurricane Irene and Lee [in 2011]."
Joe Healey, Ethel Healey's son, thanked those gathered for their prayers and assistance.
The body of Healey, 87, was found in debris next to Lock 14 in Canajoharie on Monday. Healey, of 34 Abbott St., had been missing since Friday.
"All of your prayers led to the miraculous recovery of her body and a small security safe, containing all her vital documents and information," Joe Healey said. "We ask for your continued prayers, as we, along with many others in our hometown of Fort Plain, continue to deal with this unimaginable tragedy."
Joe Healey described his mother as a wonderful, caring woman.
Adam Schwabrow, emergency management director for Montgomery County, said Healey was asked to leave her home once flooding had become dangerous. According to her family, a neighbor had tried to evacuate her during the flooding. But according to Joe Healey, she told her neighbor to get his own children out first.
"In a matter of minutes, the water had risen so fast [the neighbor] could not get back to Mom," Healey said.
Mike Sheeley, Ethel Healey's grandson, thanked the Fort Plain Volunteer Fire Department and Fort Plain Village Police for their assistance, recognizing Police Chief Robert Thomas III for his work.
"He is a true professional, and we thank him and we thank his staff," Sheeley said.
Down the street from the now vacant site of Healey's home, residents were busy cleaning up their homes on Wednesday.
Steven Weber, of 20 Abbott St., lost his home after flooding had damaged the structure of his modular home. Weber said he lost everything in the flooding, from clothes to the tools in his garage. He was unable to explain how it all felt.
"I don't have the words," Weber said.
Weber said he hoped federal assistance was coming soon.
"More is needed here," Weber said.
Even as residents of Abbott and Reid streets tried to put their lives in order, local volunteers and visitors to the community were in Wiles Park near Fort Plain Central School for the 28th annual 4th on the 3rd Celebration.
Celebrating the Fourth of July a day early is a village tradition.
Jimmy Katovitch, general chairman of the celebration committee, said he was expecting it to be a success.
"I expect a tremendous turnout," Katovitch said. "I did it in the 2006 flood, and we were amazed with the amount of people that came up. They just wanted to get away from the drudgery and destruction and come and spend three or four hours away. Just to forget, because tomorrow morning, you have to go back to the muck."
With live music, a bonfire and more planned, Katovitch said he was confident the event will be well-attended. However, the mud is a factor this year, with pools of water standing in portions of the park.
"So, we are just fighting the weather, basically," Katovitch.
Ryann Young, a volunteer at a food stall, said the celebration has no shortage of volunteers thanks to requests on Facebook.
"Not only people who have been part of the flood [recovery], but people who just say, 'We want to help Fort Plain.' It has been amazing," Young said.
"We are all helping each other," Young said.
Jenn Rivenburgh, who was volunteering to sell chicken dinners for the Fort Plain Reformed Church, said not many had stopped by, but she expected things to pick up.
"I think it's good. It gives people a chance to escape from all the things they are going through," Rivenburgh said.
Arthur Cleveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.