On Sunday August 28th Hurricane Irene decimated the small county that I live in in New York State. Of the three largest towns in the county, only one was left majorly unaffected by the historically unprecedented flooding that took place in the wake of the storm.
While my family was largely safe and dry being in the Cobleskill area (The largest town and least affected) Middleburgh and Schoharie were absolutely destroyed by the flood waters. What were once quiet valleys were turned into miles wide rushing and churning rivers.
We were without cable and internet for days, so the news of the devastation really didn't set in until later that week - even then the pictures and video while shocking and heart breaking are but a drop in a bucket when compared to actually being out there and seeing the path of destruction that the flood waters left behind.
I took my camera with me on my trip today though the devastated areas, but I didn't end up taking too many pictures. I didn't want to stop the car and be a nuisance like I saw others doing. People who were dredging muck and belongings from their houses and businesses didn't need another jackass taking photos. I quietly drove on, shocked and heartbroken at the level of destruction.
In my couple hours out there this is what I saw:
Entire crops of corn flattened to nothing - unusable now for animals or people.
Fields washed away, remnants of Pumpkin and squash vines tangles in masses around the few utility poles and trees that were standing.
The only Grocery Store in both towns destroyed by the flood waters - the front smashed in and the entire front wall buckled and damaged. The inside... was covered with 7 feet + of water.
Building after building and home after home being stripped down on the inside to the studs - all of the sheet rock and insulation in mucky piles in their front yards. HUGE mounds of dirty muddy belongings in piles like walls along every street.
A corner gas station had to be razed to the ground after being hit so hard that it was left structurally unsound. Again with 7-8 feet of water rushing through it.
A mobile home torn into pieces and wrapped around a stand of trees.
An entire side of a house washed away to the foundation - what was once a stone wall - now an empty space being propped up to keep the house from falling in.
Propane tanks in the highest branches of trees.
Red Cross Disaster Relief trucks - from several places across the US. This one from Indiana.
A farm on fire because the wet hay in the barn fermented and caught afire. A fire that is still smoldering days later.
Roads that had to be quickly rebuilt because the rushing water washed them out 12-15 feet deep.
Bridges with signs of being completely underwater in places where they are 20-30 feet above the normal level of the water...
Chicken coops and sheds dropped along side roads, in trees, the middle of fields, or in tremendous tangles of torn up trees and foliage.
A house that must have caught on fire during the flood.
Piles of debris in an abandoned grocery store parking lot that seemed to be 30-40 feet high, and that is just a start in the town of Schoharie. The main and side streets are walled with debris from homes and businesses - crews with dump trucks, bulldozers, logging trucks - anything they can get their hands on going around and trying to remove as much of it as possible.
In one spot I saw a garage sale sign on top of a pile a debris - even in misery and destruction there is that will to see the light in the darkest of situations.
I wish I had more pictures to show you that I took myself, but I did find a bunch on the net that shows off better what I have put to words.
Jay Harsevoort's Images on Flickr
(This is of the Albany area, also VERY hard hit)
I know that the strong people of my area will rebuild and eventually life will return to a semblance of normality. But things will never be the same as it once was here.
I am going to be putting together a fundraiser through RDNA for those of you that want to help. More information will be available in the next couple of days on this.