Village, Town Officials Assess Post-Hurricane Conditions

Saturated homes, flooded waterfront, oil and sewage in River

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong and Mike Turton

Docks at the Garrison Yacht Club were no match for the storm’s power. Photo by M. Turton

Philipstown and Cold Spring Village officials Tuesday, Oct. 30 reviewed conditions in the storm-struck community, describing Hurricane Sandy-induced problems that included fuel oil and sewage discharges into the Hudson River, downed trees, residences without power, and flooded waterfronts and homes.

Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea said that initial reports several hours after the brunt of the hurricane’s rain and fierce wind hit overnight, compounded by high tides, included two fuel tanks torn from yards.

The tanks ruptured, sending fuel into the Hudson River at Garrison Landing and Manitou, and propane tanks also broke at a couple of properties, he said. At least eight homes were known to have suffered flooding or other water damage at Manitou or Garrison Landing, he said.

Shea said that one of the fuel spills had sent “600 gallons of oil going by” on the Hudson River. And because of the spills, one home was flooded not only by water but fuel, he added.

At least two Town Board members, Shea and Councilor Nancy Montgomery, were among Philipstown residents without electricity as of 9 p.m. Tuesday. Shea said that about 1,900 Philipstown homes lacked power, mostly south of Route 301, although he and Montgomery live in North Highlands, in the town’s northern fringe.

Crews work to restore power in the area of Travis Corners Road and Old Albany Post Road. One worker said, “This is bad. It seems there’s a tree down at every other house.” Photo by M. Turton

On Tuesday, crews contracted by Central Hudson worked to repair damaged power lines on Route 9D near Manitoga, a scene that was repeated in several other areas around Philipstown. The area at Travis Corners Road and Old Albany Post Road was without power due to downed trees.

One utility worker there said, “It’s bad. There are a lot of trees down. It seems there’s a tree down at about every other house.” On South Mountain Pass, partially fallen trees sat precariously above power lines in more than one location, and just east of the town border a huge tree had fallen across the road making it impassable.

In the Manitou area, on the Hudson River south of Garrison, several homes flooded. Members of Garrison Volunteer Fire Company used boats to carry out a rescue there at about 1:30 in the morning on Tuesday. GVFC Chief Bill Rimm said that when they answered the call for help, they found a couple and their infant trapped on the second floor of their house and that the smell of fuel oil was evident in the dwelling.

He praised the coordinated effort that rescued the couple, which also included Putnam County sheriff’s deputies, the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and a Peekskill ambulance service that also responded. The family was taken to hospital to be examined. An elderly couple was also rescued from Manitou and taken to the Philipstown Recreation Center.

Montgomery said that Manitou residents had first been advised and then ordered to evacuate their houses, which stand on a narrow spit of land along the Hudson River west of the Metro-North railroad tracks on the southern end of Philipstown. Some refused to leave at all, others waited until too late, and as a result the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department had to rescue nine residents there overnight, she said.

Rimm said that in checking other houses there, firefighters found a home that had liquid propane leaking into it and another that had oil leaking into it. GVCF returned to the scene later in the morning to ensure the houses were properly vented and again later in the day to pump out the basement of a badly flooded home.

Shea cited complaints that the town should do more to help Manitou, such as by installing a culvert in a troublesome area. Yet when the Hudson River rises, a culvert “is not going to stop the flooding down there,” he said.

Garrison’s Landing was also hit hard. A number of homes there flooded, and crews were on hand Tuesday to clean up an oil spill from a 275-gallon tank that high waters had overturned at one of the residences. The Garrison Art Center also flooded. GAC Executive Director Carinda Swann said that the center’s basement flooded to a depth of more than 3 feet, damaging equipment, supplies and materials. No art was damaged. Docks at the nearby Garrison Yacht Club also sustained damage.

Philipstown Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico, who joined the Town Board members to go over 2013 budget figures Tuesday night, reported that he and others had worked until about 1 a.m. Tuesday, in the height of the storm. “There was harmony. Everybody worked together,” he said of the Town Board members, Highway Department crews, responders, and others.

The hurricane uprooted trees all over town, branches fell, and so did some wires, he said. He observed that in places Tuesday, drivers ignored warning signs or barriers and drove down roads “with hot wires in the road.” But by Tuesday evening, he added, “just about every road was passable” – not necessarily in optimal shape, but at least not closed.

Cold Spring water woes

The Cold Spring bandstand, around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday (photo by L.S. Armstrong)

In Cold Spring, Mayor Seth Gallagher said Tuesday afternoon that about 25 homes or businesses suffered flood damage in the lower part of the village, near the Hudson.

The Vikasa Yoga and Pilates Studio on lower Main reportedly sustained damage, with some three feet of water inside, and Moo Moo’s Creamery ice cream shop on West Street closed until further notice.

High tides overnight Monday-to-Tuesday and again around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday sent river water rising on West and Main Streets, making the village bandstand look like an island, and flooding parts of Dockside Park. The lower Main Street area and Dockside were reclaimed from the river and filled in to use as building sites around 1830.

The village’s West Street pump station, which routes wastewater toward the sewage treatment plant, was inundated, the mayor said. That means “the sewage is going into the river, storm-water mixed with raw sewage,” and the situation will continue until the pump station can be repaired, he said. Without the pump station, wastewater “backs up in the manholes and leaks out”; to clear the system the dirty water must be pumped into the river, he explained.

The village government has been working on an upgrade for the station, to prevent such hazards in the future. Because of the unsavory blend of run-off and sewage, “people really should stay out of the water” flooding the riverfront at high tides, Gallagher said.

An alert sent out by the village office shortly afterward underscored the message and warned of the potential for danger from downed electrical wires as well: “The village is asking residents to avoid walking in the accumulated water on lower Main Street, West Street and New Street,” the note stated. “This water has a probability of raw sewerage contamination along with a possibility of electric shock.”

According to the mayor, getting the pump station functioning again requires drying out its components and making other basic repairs. He expressed hope that everything would be back in operation by the end of the week. Not only were the underground parts of the pump station flooded, but the above-ground outdoor control panel “was completely submerged,” Gallagher added. “The water was about 6 feet high.”

Stephen Geiger and Sarah Tauber lost most of their possessions in the flood. They live at 1 North St. in Cold Spring. Photo by M. Turton

Stephen Geiger and Sarah Tauber live in the distinctive “Quonset hut” style house at 1 North Ave. in Cold Spring next to Dockside Park. “We had 42 inches of water in the house,” Geiger said. They lost most of their possessions in the flood, including furniture they had purchased after Hurricane Irene.

Geiger said among items lost were their bed, bedding, rugs, microwave, washer and dryer. “Our fridge fell right over; I’ve never seen anything like that. The jury is still out on the stove.” Geiger said that during the flood their propane tank floated away, and their oil tank began leaking. “We love living there, but I’m afraid those days have come to an end,” Geiger said. For the time being he and Tauber are staying with friends in Cortlandt.

Meanwhile, the clock ticked toward another high tide – expected to occur about 1:20 a.m. on Wednesday.

There was one brighter note: the village government also noted that Halloween trick-or-treating was back on for Wednesday night. Because the storm’s impact was not as severe as feared, “the village has reassessed its recommendation against trick-or-treating, and is now recommending that those parents allowing their children to go door-to-door for candy, exercise caution in doing so,” the statement said. “It is still possible for storm-weakened branches or power lines to fall without warning. The village will do all we can to ensure safe conditions, but cannot guarantee against all risk.”

The notice also stated that Cold Spring Police Department would have its usual expanded Halloween detail on Wednesday and that “officers will be working to assure the safety of all.”

8 thoughts on “Village, Town Officials Assess Post-Hurricane Conditions

  1. The response of the Cold Spring community to the waterfront devastation has been puzzling, to say the least. The waterfront is one of the reasons, perhaps the chief reason, why people visit Cold Spring. Those of us who live in what we jokingly call Low-Main – the area west of the railroad tracks – work hard to keep our part of the community attractive, and that, along with the area’s natural beauty, is what brings people here time and again. Put another way, without this part of the village – unique among Hudson River communities – Cold Spring would be just another Hudson River town. But do residents here realize this? I wonder.

    There have been family-to-family offers of help. And the village crews have been working hard to clean up the mess and repair damage to the wastewater pumping station. But the rest of the community has been noticeable mostly for coming down and gawking. Many people down here, even if they can stay in their homes, have lost appliance and cannot cook. But local restaurants have made no gestures in their direction, offering help with food. How about coming down and offering coffee and bagels in the morning to residents looking forward to yet another day of cleaning out?

    We’re not asking for a lot. Maybe we’re simply looking for gestures. One that occurs to me is a waterfront barbecue hosted by local restaurants designed simply to raise people’s spirits.

    My wife and I are fortunate. While we had water in the house, it was less than most people and we were never forced to leave. We are in the process of drying things out and assessing the damage. But many of the other residents have lost damn near everything. Two couples have lost everything for the second time.

    These folks need to know that the often-talked about community spirit in Cold Spring extends to the storm ravaged residents of the Cold Spring waterfront area. If that spirit, so often in evidence, turns a blind eye to what happened down here, then I have to ask: we were there when you needed us, where are you now that we need you?

    • John, I agree with everything you’ve expressed in your comment. Interestingly, you posted it right around the same time my wife and I were walking around the waterfront. We shared your sentiments. The waterfront builds community. I am not a village resident, but live in Nelsonville and often walk my dog around the streets of the Cold Spring, specifically the waterfront.

      That being said, consider this a formal offer for my help. I am relatively handy, but am also happy pushing a broom around or moving furniture, etc. I might even be good for some hot coffee. Any thought on how we might be able to rally some more troops? I am also perplexed by the lack of organization to help those affected by the storm.

  2. It’s a day later and I am seeing requests on Facebook from local residents asking people to donate to “Victims of Hurricane Sandy”. Don’t people realize that the people who live in the Cold Spring waterfront area are “victims of Hurricane Sandy”? We may be better off than some of the victims, some of us may have had the foresight to get flood insurance, but the fact remains that life down here has been turned upside down for many people. We are your neighbors.

  3. John, thanks for your recent post. I have spoken with Jeff at The Foundry and he and I want to help. As of this writing coffee, bagels etc will be available immediately. I’m not sure how to work out all the logistics but for now any of you can go to or call the Foundry (265-4504) or me (265-4414) and we’ll try to get something delivered. Also, Leonora and I have spoken and the Cold Spring Merchants Association will help as well. Call me when you have a minute and we’ll figure out some logistics.

  4. If there is a specific way we could help the people down at the waterfront, we would be happy to. Is anybody organizing efforts? How can we find out what’s going on and what to do? Is there a way that we, as a community, can be more prepared, especially as we now expect a nor’easter next week? –David Limburg, Kelly House

  5. Yesterday – Nov 2 – three days after the storm hit and for the first time, we received an email from the villagle telling us that Trustee Ralph Falloon had been assigned to handle relief efforts for Lower Main Street and telling us how to contact him. Let me repeat that this comes a full three days after the event.

    Trustee Falloon should be contacting us. He should be here talking to the residents, not sitting and waiting for us to call him or send him an email. This passive response is not the way you handle an event of this magnitude.

    In the absence of any sign of concern from the village, other than the mayor compiling a list of those of us who had been hit, we have started to organize our own relief efforts. It would be great to have some help on this from the village, but I am not holding my breath.

  6. For those of you who have expressed a willingness to help. We are working today to compile a list of what people need. Some folks are here while some have moved elsewhere pending restoration of their homes. You can contact me at 845-265-9434 or you can drop by at 8 Fish St. (Two houses down from the dance studio, the house that looks like an English cottage.)

  7. Sadly, it turns out that our efforts to find out what people need come too late. Many of the residents have “moved to higher ground” while their homes are being reclaimed. Others, seeing that no one was offering relief – not the village, not the town, not the county, not the community – are making do on their own. We had a limited amount of time to dedicate to this, as we had the damage to our own home to deal with.

    It’s a sad commentary on what happened here that the morning after the storm there was no one there for our fellow residents. But Dave Cook arranged through the Merchants Association for free coffee and breakfast at the Foundry Cafe. Many thanks to Dave and to Jeff Consaga at the Foundry.