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After August flooding,
time to say thank you
The following is the 11th in a series of Odessa File columns by Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, regarding news of a legal nature that readers might find timely in this ever-changing world.
By Jim Reed
Ziff Law Firm, Elmira
Randy Rappleye knew Aug. 14 was going to be a bad day as soon as he looked out at his driveway at the south end of the Town of Hector.
"When I left for work, there was water running over my driveway," said Randy, the Hector town highway superintendent. "I knew it was going to be a really long day, but it ended up being a long couple of weeks."
Randy was right: Mother Nature dumped anywhere from 6 to 9 inches of rain on the town that day, sending streams and ditches overflowing into homes and businesses, flooding properties with water and debris, and damaging many state, county, town, and private roads in the town and across Schuyler County.
I followed county trucks that morning on my way to work in Elmira and they were plowing debris off the roads to create a path for traffic, so I got to see firsthand how the emergency response was unfolding.
In this month's column, I want to thank everyone who worked long days and weeks to get our damaged roads reopened. Here is their story:
Hector was the hardest hit town, in the northeast section of the county, suffering a direct hit with their neighbors to the north in Seneca County, but other Schuyler County towns also suffered damage. Roads in the towns of Montour, Dix, Catharine, and Cayuta needed some repairs, too, said Ken Thurston, county highway superintendent.
It took several weeks of long days by workers from multiple departments, but by the end of August, most of the damaged roads were repaired. Work continues on some private roads, and some ditches will need to be rebuilt next spring, but teamwork got Schuyler residents back on the roads quickly, said Ken, who has 13 employees.
"It was a huge collaboration of multiple agencies," Ken said, putting a spotlight on many departments, including highway workers from every town and his county highway workers; local fire departments and emergency workers; state police, environmental conservation, and transportation employees; Homeland Security; and state employees from the New York State Canal Corp., Parks and Recreation, and Soil and Water.
"We did a lot of work in a short period of time to try to get our residents' lives back to normal as soon as possible," Ken said. "You can't plan for a 150-year storm like that; you can't build an infrastructure to handle that."
County Administrator Tim O'Hearn thanked the highway and emergency services communities for their rapid and tireless responses. 'They worked whatever hours were needed to get the job done,' Tim said. 'They did it without question. We take pride in our workforce.'
Tim is estimating damage in Schuyler was at least $5 million, and President Trump recently ordered federal assistance for recovery efforts in Schuyler and six other neighboring counties, including Chemung. The next step, the counties hope, is the federal government reimbursing local governments for money spent on cleanup and recovery efforts.
In the Town of Hector, where 80 percent of the town was affected by flooding, life is returning to normal, Randy said. The town has 146 miles of roads, which can be challenging even in good weather for his town crew of 12 employees, he said. The county has 122 miles of roads countywide.
The August flooding is the worst Randy has seen in 29 years in the town, but it reminded him again of what great people there are in Schuyler County.
'I am proud of my workers and very grateful for all of the help we received," he said. "People in other departments were calling to ask us what we needed and wanted to know how they could help. It was amazing. We got about a year's worth of work done in two-and-a-half weeks."
Thanks for reading,
Photos in text:
Top: Attorney Jim Reed.
Middle: Flooding along Route 414.
Bottom: The damage in Valois after flooding.
To see Jim Reed's first column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's second column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's third column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fourth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fifth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's sixth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's seventh column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's eighth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's ninth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's tenth column, click here.
To read Adam Gee's first column, click here.