A year ago today, thousands of area residents were attempting to pick up the pieces after the remnants of Hurricane Irene tore through the region.
Many of them still are.
The damage wrought by Irene — and, a week later, Tropical Storm Lee — can be measured in numbers.
Millions of dollars of aid. Thousands of houses and businesses damaged or destroyed. Hundreds still without electricity even a week after the storm (and hundreds of thousands in the immediate aftermath).
And, most tragically of all, about 50 people killed by the storm in the United States — including Rozalia “Leah” Stern-Gluck, who was trapped by more than six feet of water in a cottage at the Valkyrian Motel in Fleischmanns.
When the winds died down and the rains stopped, it was immediately apparent that recovery from Irene would not be measured in days or weeks, but in months and years.
We see that today in the hardest-hit communities such as Prattsville and Schoharie, where major infrastructure projects still await completion alongside repairs to private homes and businesses.
In Schoharie, work hasn’t even begun to build a new jail, which used to be housed in the public safety building. The first floor of that building was wiped out, scattering county workers to temporary offices throughout the area.
And even in places that suffered minor damage in comparison, the road to recovery is a slow one.
Otsego County Highway Superintendent Ron Tiderencil recently said that work is still needed to repair county roads damaged by the storm.
“We definitely didn’t get hit as hard here as the places in Schoharie County,” said Tiderencil.
But the cost of repairs still exceeds $1 million.
As sobering as these facts are, there is another reality about the recovery process. The fact that it is happening at all — that people are pitching in to rebuild towns that were all but wiped out — is a testament to the strength of spirit and love of community of the people who live in Schoharie, Margaretville, Prattsville and many other flood-stricken towns.
The same spirit is at work in New Orleans, where Tropical Storm Isaac threatens to make the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina a memorable one for all the wrong reasons.
The plight and tenacity of that city’s residents are echoed here in our own communities, where many people have vowed not to let a hurricane drive them from the places they love. The storm brought destruction, but it has also spawned grass-roots efforts such as the Schoharie Area Long Term Regional Flood Recovery Coalition, which has coordinated a variety of recovery efforts for that region.
We have weathered the storm, and emerged stronger than ever.