Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene

From top to bottom:

The Tawasentha Park Winter Recreation Area is covered with snow in the winter - - and mud at the base of the sleighing hill after the high water.

In Frenchs Hollow, on the Normanskill, just below the bridge rail in the middle picture is a standing wave, about six feet high.

The last picture is a view of the Normanskill looking upstream in Frenchs Hollow.

When Hurricane Irene got to upstate New York, it may have declined to tropical storm. But meteorology and semantics come nowhere near to describing the wallop that Irene packed.

At 6:30 am, Sunday morning, I got up, checked the weather and sent some e-mails. There was rain and some wind, but nothing noteworthy. After returning to bed, I heard, from a half-deep sleep, the telephone peeping. When I awoke several hours later, the cable and Internet were out.

Then, the power died.

To get to the supermarket for the newspaper, I drove across the bridge over the Normanskill, a medium-sized stream in our neighborhood. The water was coming up. The trip required a detour because a house on Route 20 had an electrical fire.

On the way home, the Normanskill was rising even more. An hour later, a truck from our utility, National Grid, went down the street. With no electricity and little to do, I chased the truck, to ask when power would be restored.

We lost electricity after a power house at the Watervliet Reservoir dam was submerged by rapidly rising waters of the Normanskill, shown in the first two pictures above. A quick thinking National Grid lineman safely separated electrical service to our street and the power house and the lights were on again.

All day, rain fell steadily and wind blew at a good pace. At first, the wind brought down just twigs and dead limbs. Then, it brought down a 30 foot long trunk from a walnut tree in our backyard.

Even though the lack of power, cable and Internet was frustrating, the day was nice. We read the two local papers and The New York Times all the way through. After dinner, we played Scrabble instead of settling for television.

Weather on Monday, the day after the storm, was exquisite: sunny and pleasant. However, all the rain that arrived Sunday lifted most of the local streams and rivers to record flood levels.
The Mohawk at Schenectady, for example, overflowed the entire floodplain, closed the Western Gateway Bridge and submerged Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In. Rather than pile on more words, check the photo gallery at The Daily Gazette and you will see how extensive the damage was!

An odd things about this storm was how focused the news coverage of the events were. New York’s Capital Region had excellent local coverage on radio and in newspapers. However, a person wishing to learn about conditions in New England or Long Island had much trouble finding any useful information.

Irene left property damage, injuries and some deaths from North Carolina up to New England. My mother is still without power on eastern Long Island and a friend in Virginia lost power for four days. Another friend in the eastern Catskills had a tree fall on her garage - - although she kept going thanks to an excellent back-up generator. If you have a story about the hurricane, please take a sec to share it!

Despite these problems, luck, careful preparation by citizens and tireless work by government and electrical utility first responders took a lot of the sting out of the storm.

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