Southeastern Delaware County and other areas in the Catskill Mountains were hit hard Sunday by Hurricane Irene, leaving at least one person dead.
Elsewhere, thousands of area residents, including one in three NYSEG customers in Otsego County, were in the dark and there were few indications on when electricity would be restored.
Massive flash flooding struck the Catskill Mountains and the communities of Fleischmanns, Margaretville, Prattsville and Roxbury were devastated, according to emergency officials.
Meanwhile, river flooding is expected on the Delaware River system, and evacuation preparations are under way in Walton and Downsville. A state of emergency remains in effect in Delaware County.
Delaware, Greene and Schoharie counties were declared federal disaster areas, making them eligible for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A woman in her 70s was killed in Fleischmanns when the Valkyrian Motel was swept away by the raging water, according to a report from The Associated Press, which sourced the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.
The Delaware County Sheriff's Office, when contacted Sunday night by The Daily Star, would neither confirm nor deny there was a death and referred all questions to state police.
"We have a death in that area. (Bureau of Criminal Investigations) is investigating it," said Sgt. Brian Weidman of Troop C Headquarters in Sidney.
Weidman said he did not have any details but said it was the only known fatality from Irene in the area.
The hurricane was downgraded to tropical storm status soon after making landfall in New York.
"Wind destruction and flooding in various locations throughout New York state and New England were catastrophic, but other locations escaped unharmed," local weather observer David K. Mattice of Emmons said. "This could have been a whole lot worse."
Mattice said many people were impacted by Irene, while others were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Mattice said 3.37 inches of rain fell in Oneonta by 3 p.m. Sunday.
"We escaped the wrath," he said of those in the immediate Oneonta area.
But he said rainfall varied greatly. The NWS reported as much as 8 inches fell in some areas. Rainfall totals were unavailable for the hardest hit areas in southeastern Delaware County.
"It's a time of great sadness for a lot of people," he said.
With the Pepacton Reservoir expected to start spilling over Sunday night, moderate flooding is expected today in Downsville and evacuation preparations began Sunday for flood-prone areas.
Video footage and photos posted on Facebook and by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on the photo-sharing website flickr.com document devastation in those communities, with cars, trucks, businesses and homes inundated by roiling brown water.
The mountain towns were in many cases cut off by washed out roads and even National Guard helicopters were not able to immediately assist in rescuing people from the raging waters due to weather, according to emergency officials.
A state of emergency remains in effect in Delaware County. All roads in the county are closed, by order of the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. All travel is restricted to emergency personnel and essential employees.
Dean Frazier, a spokesman with the Delaware County Office of Emergency Services, said at around 3:30 p.m. Sunday there have been no known fatalities in the county from the storm. The report of a woman being found dead came at around 7 p.m. Sunday.
But damage is still being assessed and emergency crews were having a difficult time reaching Margaretville and Fleischmanns, which he said were underwater.
The village of Fleischmanns was evacuated and the National Guard was called to rescue people by helicopter, but could not fly because of the weather, he said.
Other areas of Delaware County were largely spared the massive flooding seen in Roxbury, Fleischmanns and Margaretville, according to Frazier.
"They don't seem to be affected nearly as much as Fleischmanns and Margaretville," Frazier said.
Frazier said he did not know when the emergency travel ban would be lifted because damage is still being assessed.
Rain from Irene lingered in the area well into the afternoon.
"There is some indication the storm has slowed a bit and that's what's causing the additional rain," Frazier said.
More flooding expected
Elsewhere in Delaware County, the impact from Irene was less severe Sunday, but the Delaware River system is expected to rise overnight as it takes in water from the surrounding mountains.
In Downsville, there was no major flooding Sunday, but there are a lot of trees and wires down and sporadic power outages, according to Downsville firefighter Erik Johnson at about 3:30 p.m.
All eyes were on the nearby Pepacton Reservoir and Johnson said some flooding is expected on the East Branch of the Delaware River.
"It's going to happen," Johnson said.
Johnson said flow over the Pepacton was expected to be 12,000 cubic feet per minute.
"That's a ton of water," Johnson said. "We are going out and notifying all of our known prone areas."
Downsville Central School is the designated Red Cross shelter of the area.
"We will not open that unless it's needed," he said.
Like the other mountain communities, Downsville was also isolated by Irene.
"Every road in and out of town here is closed because of trees down on the lines," Johnson said.
As the West Branch of the Delaware River is expected to also rise, evacuations preparations are underway in the village of Walton on Delaware, Griswold, North, Townsend and Liberty streets. The Walton Fire Department and NYSEG will work to cut power and gas to homes on those streets, according to Delaware County emergency officials late Sunday
An evacuation shelter will be established at the Walton High School on Stockton Avenue and transportation is available, according to emergency officials.
The high school will be used as a shelter until Bridge Street is cut off by flooding. After that, the First Presybeterian Church at the corner of North and East streets will be used, the officials said.
There were no major issues in the city of Oneonta, according to local emergency personnel.
There have been trees and wires down through the city and town of Oneonta, but nothing that has resulted in widespread power outages or injuries.
The Susquehanna River has remained below flood stage and the area's streams have so far remained largely within their banks.
Power outages affect thousands
New York State Electric & Gas reported 8,541 customers without power in Otsego County. Delaware County also has widespread outages with 6,185 customers without electricity.
With each customer representing a household or business, this translates into many more thousands of people who were in the dark Sunday night.
Also other utilities serve the area, and they were also reporting widespread outages.
NYSEG gave no indication of when service would be restored for any of its customers. Outages were widespread. Some of those locally who lost power said they were told it could be out for days.
Statewide there are nearly 1 million people without power.
In Otsego County, nearly one-in-three NYSEG customers were without power.
In the town of Oneonta on Richards Avenue, where all 40 NYSEG customers were without power, Laura Pianka was getting her family together for a trip to Pizzaland for dinner.
She said the family hunkered down all day at home and was planning to stay there overnight.
The electricity was cut when limbs near the intersection with Chestnut Street took town a power line.
She said she hoped the power would com back on soon but had heard nothing from NYSEG.
"I hope so. I don't want to lose my food," she said at about 6 p.m. Sunday.
Pianka said her family passed the time by playing board games in their dark house.
"We were playing monopoly," her father, Ray Pianka, said.
Ray Pianka said he wondered why NYSEG, which has a facility less than a mile away, wasn't able to get to Richard Avenue to take care of the outage.
"It's a very simple line down," he said.
Both Ray Pianka and his grandson, Zach Ramsey, said they were glad the storm did not turn cause any major problems in Oneonta.
"It wasn't really that bad except for the rain and wind," Ramsey said.
Meanwhile, their neighbor, Polly Bailey, was helping her husband load suitcases in their car. Their destination was the Clarion Hotel in downtown Oneonta.
Bailey said they were stocked up and prepared for the storm, but they hadn't expected the drop in temperature that followed in Irene's wake. At 6 p.m. it was about 60 degrees in Oneonta and dropping.
"It's getting chilly," Bailey said. "We have to spend the night in a hotel because my daughter is disabled."
The cold weather could exacerbate her severe asthma, she said.
Her grandson Tyler Coffin, 5, smiled as the suitcases were loaded.
"He is excited we are going on vacation," Bailey said.
Coffin said he wasn't scared of Hurricane Irene.
"I'm just brave," he said.
Bailey said the power line on Richards Avenue went down at about 7:30 a.m. and she said she has heard nothing from NYSEG yet on when electricity will be restored.
At 7:30 p.m., a front desk clerk at the Clarion said the 78-room hotel is nearing capacity.
"We've been taking reservations nonstop since 6:30 p.m." said Olin Lucas front desk
"We're down to about 15 rooms."
Lucas said most of the reservations are coming from people who have lost power or have otherwise been affected by the weather.
"A lot of the other area hotels are full as well," Lucas said. "I know the Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn are full right now."
All but one of the 631 customers in the village were without electricity in the village of Unadilla as of 6 p.m. Sunday night.
The village of Otego was also hit hard, with 470 of 500 customers without electricity.
About half of the village of Cooperstown was without power. In nearby Milford, 1,121 of the town's 1,514 NYSEG customers had no electricity.
The outages in the Cooperstown area prompted closure of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, according to Hall of Fame Director of Communications Craig Muder.
Muder said the Hall would be open today.
The Delaware County electrical grid was hit nearly as hard with 6,185 of 28,163 customers without power.
The town and village of Franklin had 1,144 NSYEG customers out of 1,348 without power.
The towns of Hamden and Masonville also had a high percentage of customers without power.