Cleanup and Evaluation Go on After Hurricane Sandy

So do lines for gasoline as drivers queue up

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

As piles of debris replaced sandbags and puddles at saturated sites in Philipstown after Hurricane Sandy, a new threat loomed Friday, Nov. 2: a shortage of gasoline, with the ripple effects of destruction in New York City and upper New Jersey reaching north. Meanwhile, sounds of repairs in progress and both pleas and offers of help after the Oct. 28-29 storm echoed throughout the town.

Gasoline crunch

By midday Friday, five gasoline service stations in Philipstown had exhausted their supplies. Before the pumps ran dry Friday at one station, Elmesco Citgo Inc., in Cold Spring, a passerby noted a long line of cars waiting to tank up.

Elmesco got a fresh supply at 5 a.m. on Saturday, opened for business as usual at 6 a.m., and by mid-morning again drew queues of eager and perhaps frustrated drivers. A Cold Spring policeman and a traffic control officer stood in Chestnut Street (Route 9D), keeping order.

Vehicles form a long line, attempting to reach the gas pumps at the Elmesco station in Cold Spring on Saturday. Photo by L.S. Armstrong

“There’s no shortage” of gasoline, Elmesco’s owner, Kenny Elmes, said Saturday noon, as he guided cars into his station and customers replenished hand-held canisters as well as vehicles. “It’s just that people are filling up tanks and cars and causing a shortage.” He said he expected another shipment of gasoline by early Sunday.

Cold Spring Police Officer Gary Marino said around 12:15 p.m. Saturday that he’d been out on the street since 8:40 a.m., left at one point when the scene became less hectic, and then returned when Mayor Seth Gallagher called him back as the line lengthened again. Problems also occurred because a car parked on Chestnut Street forced the line of waiting vehicles to go around it, into the southbound lane, which then made southbound cars travel in the northbound lane.

Marino and his aide, Chris Coleman, also had to direct traffic to allow a resident to turn into his driveway, and appeared, around 11 a.m., to make a driver move to open access to Wall Street. But cars continued to block the exit drive from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

In another transportation-related move, Metro-North train service on the Hudson line resumed from New York City to Poughkeepsie on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service announced more potential trouble ahead – a possible nor’easter storm that might blitz the Northeast a day or two after the Nov. 6 election.

Philipstown floods

During the hurricane, eight or more riverside structures in Garrison Landing and Manitou, as well as at least 25 homes and businesses in the lower part of Cold Spring, near the Hudson, were inundated with river and stormwater from 1 foot to several feet deep – with the hurricane’s effects compounded by high tides. Sandy also felled trees and branches, downed power lines, clogged roads, and sent fuel oil and sewage into the river, after tearing fuel tanks loose from riverside yards and swamping the pump station that serves the Cold Spring wastewater system.

Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp., in a news alert, reported that “as of 7 a.m. Saturday, power has been returned to more than 96 percent of affected customers; approximately 3,700 outages remain, largely in Ulster County.” The storm had affected some 103,000 Central Hudson customers and “service restoration” to those who continued to lack service “is expected to be largely completed on Saturday, with remaining cases in remote and hard-hit areas lasting until Monday.”

At Desmond-Fish in Garrison, many residents have using the library to access the Internet in Sandy’s wake, some even using the library as a temporary office. Photo by Karen Thompson

Using a portable generator, Cold Spring’s wastewater pump got back in operation – at least partly – less than two days after water lapped high around the nearby Cold Spring bandstand. “We have it operating, bypassing the main control panel,” as repairs continue, Mayor Gallagher said Thursday, Nov. 1. The village government has been working on an upgrade for the station, to prevent such hazards in the future.

On Friday afternoon, village officials asked residents whose homes were harmed by the storm to inform them, to aid in “compiling a list of homes that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. If your home was involved and you haven’t provided information to the village office,” the notice stated, “please contact the Village Clerk at 845-265-3611.”

 Across Philipstown, efforts to deal with hurricane-created messes began even before the storm ended and proceeded without noticeable interruption, although by late Wednesday afternoon, play as well as work was in evidence: Diminutive ghouls and goblins swept through village streets for Halloween trick-or-treating. [See: Storm Doesn’t Daunt Trick-or-Treaters or Parrott Street Custom, Nov. 1]

Road restoration and building fee waivers

On Thursday night, at the Town Board’s formal monthly meeting (the board’s third meeting in three days), Supervisor Richard Shea and Councilors Nancy Montgomery, Betty Budney and John Van Tassel voted unanimously to waive building department fees for property owners making repairs necessitated by Sandy.

Beginning quickly on Tuesday, town Highway Department personnel and Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. crews, among others, attacked blocked roads and started restoring utility services. By about 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to Shea, electricity had been restored to at least a few hundred of the 1,900 households initially lacking it.

More progress had occurred by 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, but at that stage some homes still lacked power – including Shea’s, as he revealed at the Town Board’s formal monthly meeting that night.

As Shea and other Town Board members attested, by dusk on Wednesday, work to clear logs and debris from roads in Philipstown was largely finished. They noted that the eastern end of the county had fared much worse in the storm than Philipstown and on Wednesday night they urged the Haldane Central and Garrison Union Free School Districts to reopen. Haldane and Garrison did so on Friday. In part, the schools were caught up in confusion surrounding a Putnam County declaration of an ongoing state of emergency and whether it prohibited access to schools in Philipstown.

Unlike the case after 2011’s Hurricane Irene, the town government is not expected to seek Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. “We did escape, largely, the brunt of it,” Shea said at the Thursday Town Board meeting. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the people in New York City.”

He also noted the plight of those in Philipstown who were affected. While the scale of destruction in the town was less than anticipated, relatively small, “when it’s your home, it’s a huge scale,” he said, adding that as of Wednesday night there were still residents “displaced out of their homes, whose homes were ruined.”

Overnight rescues

Even if it fared much better than places along the Hudson, Philipstown did not lack its share of excitement and danger.

The Garrison Volunteer Fire Company used boats to carry out a rescue in Manitou about 1:30 Tuesday morning. 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, with the smell of fuel oil evident in the dwelling.

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

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 rescues took place, she said.

Rimm said that in checking Manitou, firefighters found a home with liquid propane leaking into it and another with oil coming in. 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 a badly flooded basement.

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

Around town, helping hands continued to be extended, after the storm abated. Garrison Volunteer Fire Company retiring president and incoming 2nd lieutenant Jamie Copeland told the Town Board Thursday that in addition to the rescue work during the storm, his department had later provided “lots of pump-outs. Our pumps have been going like crazy.”

Shea said that one of the oil spills along the river sent “600 gallons of oil going by” on the Hudson. At the Thursday Town Board meeting, he announced that the board would review town policies on fuel tanks in property-owners’ yards. “They’re a problem when they’re not anchored,” he said.

Town Board members praised the work of the four fire departments, ambulance crews, law enforcement officers, and the Town Highway department and Recreation Department, which opened the Recreation Center for storm refugees, as well as others involved.

“We had great responses from all our people,” Shea said. “This town is very independent. Everybody steps up.”

Mopping up on Lower Main

Like Manitou and Garrison’s Landing, the area below the railroad tracks in Cold Spring suffered damage.

Wednesday afternoon, John and Karn Dunn joined neighbors there in cleaning up. They live in a historic house on Fish Street (the northern end of Market Street), where water a foot deep made a sloshing entry as the storm vented its fury. “It came in with the surge and went out with the tide,” John Dunn said. “It was just the one big surge that came up” that caused problems. “Our house was surrounded by water.”

“We would’ve had to sandbag up to 4 feet” high to keep water from the ground floor of the house, Karn Dunn explained.

Overall, John Dunn concluded, “we were very lucky.” Nonetheless, he noted in a comment on Thursday evening that fellow villagers seemed to be neglecting their “Low Main” counterparts. “The village crews have been working hard to clean up the mess and repair damage to the wastewater pumping station,” Dunn wrote. “But the rest of the community has been noticeable mostly for coming down and gawking.”

Cold Spring Trustee Ralph Falloon said on Facebook on Friday evening that “the village has been receiving requests for ways to donate or help with the local residents of lower Main Street. The village [government] is not necessarily set up to handle fundraising, so I will be attempting to coordinate a relief effort. … Instead of many different folks trying to do different things we feel it is best to have a coordinated effort.”

He told Facebook readers to “please pass this on and email me with your ideas and willingness to help,” adding that he had already contacted a number of organizations and individuals. “We will be brainstorming and let everyone know our plan of attack,” Falloon promised.

The West Street pump station routes wastewater toward the Cold Spring sewage treatment plant. When it’s out of commission, “the sewage is going into the river, stormwater mixed with raw sewage,” the mayor explained. Not only were the underground parts of the pump station flooded, but the above-ground outdoor control panel “was completely submerged,” Gallagher said. “The water was about 6 feet high.”

Mike Turton and Jeanne Tao contributed reporting to this article.

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