The damage from this hurricane was devastating. I still can't believe it, even though I've seen the pictures on Facebook and heard from my friends who sustained major damages to their homes and businesses. The AuSable River, which runs in a valley about half a mile down the hill from our house, rose to its highest level on record: 19 feet. Flood stage is around 7 feet. Folks who made it through our crazy spring flooding with little or no damage were completely taken by surprise during this storm. There are still parts of our area that do not have electricity, and many people are running short on water and food. There are National Guard units working with the Army Corps of Engineers, the DOT and the DEC to stabilize and repair roads that were washed away by the floodwaters and to clean up the fuel oil and heating fuel that were spilled when fuel tanks were ripped away from homes and torn up by the river.
Tom and I drove on the bridge that crosses the AuSable River over on Stickney Bridge Road and saw the roof of a vehicle smashed up against the trees on the river banks. I've seen toilets, fuel tanks, tires, bicycles, shovels, mattresses and television sets among the debris along the river banks.
Our community library in Upper Jay was completely demolished. Because it was so close to the river, the flood waters got into the building and destroyed over 50% of their collection of books, along with all of their computers and most of the historical records kept by the library. At my favorite local bakery in Upper Jay, the entire front of the building was torn off and the owner's 12-day-old car was picked up and smashed against his home. Two antique stores in Upper Jay were completely destroyed by the flood, and one of them had a huge tree fall down through the center of the building. The Land of Make Believe, the first theme park in the United States by artist Arto Monaco, was completely washed away and no longer exists. In nearby Keene, that town is still cut off from the rest of the world because the roads have just been washed away by the flood waters.
I think what bothers me the most about all of this is that the businesses that were damaged were all locally-owned businesses. We're not talking about major conglomerates like Lowe's or Sears or Starbucks, where there are deep corporate pockets to repair damages and get business going again. Most of these businesses depend on locals and summer visitors, and with the Labor Day weekend coming up and most of the roads around here still closed, I don't know how they are going to be able to survive this without some serious help.
The community response to the floods has been overwhelming, and that's one of the things that I love about living in a small community like this. There are food stations set up for people who can't cook meals anymore because of the flood, and the local building supply company is offering a discount on all supplies for Irene-related damage. Gotta love the North Country...