Schenectady County

Irene: Stockade prep made a difference (with video)

For one family in Schenectady’s historic Stockade neighborhood, the historic flood was a triumph.

For one family in Schenectady’s historic Stockade neighborhood, the historic flood was a triumph.

Yes, their floors were covered with mud. But they saved nearly every item in the house, even most of the appliances.

In 47 years of living half a block from the Mohawk River on North Street, the Duggans’ house had only flooded once before. And even then, the water had been merely ankle-deep on the first floor.

But this time, with dire warnings of flooding that could fill the house up to the first-floor ceiling, they called in every friend they had.

An army descended upon them and in the day before the flood, they moved nearly every possession to the second floor. The appliances and large furniture were too heavy and bulky to get up the stairs, but no one wanted to surrender the most valuable items to the river.

In the past, the Duggans have lifted their leather couch and wooden cabinets onto paint cans. This time they erected sawhorses and stacked furniture according to its value, with the leather couch on top. The fridge was lofted so high that it touched the low ceiling of the kitchen. Every other appliance was lifted about 5 feet off the floor.

And then the water swept in.

Jim Duggan borrowed a set of waders and walked through the rippling current to his house twice as the river roared into the neighborhood. The first time, the water was 6 inches below the fridge. But it kept on rising.

The second time, he couldn’t get inside, but he peered in the front window and saw that the water was lapping at the base of his living room chair — the lowest piece of furniture in the room.

“I said, ‘By golly, I think we might make it!’ ”

He was right. The river crested and backed down the street, leaving behind a thick glop of mud and some badly waterlogged sheetrock — but no major damage.

The fridge might be lost. Although they lifted it as high as they could, the ceiling in the kitchen was too low. The

bottom 4 inches were submerged. The cabinets underneath the leather couch also got wet, and the particle board might not recover, Duggan said.

“But the question was, would it reach the upholstery,” he said. “The help we had and the individual imagination to devise ways to extend our resistance was terrific. I’m very grateful.”

Others did not go to such lengths, many saying they were certain the flood would not go beyond their basements.

Only a lucky few were right. Craig and Deborah Zalondek were among the relieved residents who came home to find a perfectly dry first floor.

“It’s great! Nothing!” Craig Zalondek reported. “I just remodeled, so I couldn’t sleep all night.”

He has lived on North Ferry Street for 20 years, and flood waters had never before reached his house. The last big flood stopped in the driveway next door. This time, his basement filled with water.

He borrowed a friend’s pool pump and emptied the basement before city crews arrived in the morning. By then, flood waters in the Stockade had drained back down to the river.

There weren’t many lucky ones.

Dennis Meyer, who has lived next to the river for more than 15 years, also said the river has never before gotten farther than his garage and basement. But this time, his first floor had 21⁄2 feet of water.

“This was the big one,” he said.

As he got his first look at the damage Tuesday, he was bolstered by the reassurance that he has flood insurance. So he focused on simply cleaning up what he could, mainly by removing the mud.

“If you get this mud out before it dried, it’s not too much of a problem,” he said. “If you let it dry, it’s like concrete.”

Residents found that they could sweep or squeegee most of the mud out, with some sharing power-washers to get the final sticky layer of mud off their wood floors. Then they had to repeatedly scrub away the sand and grit left behind.

“It’s a lot of extra work and mess,” Meyer said. “But it’s a beautiful place to live.”

The flood has scared away at least one new resident, who was horrified to find that water had filled his entire first floor.

“I love the area, but I’m not dealing with this,” C. Marruso said. “It’s going to get repaired and then sold.”

His house is one of the closest to the river. At the flood’s worst, water lapped over the top of his counters.

It destroyed everything — couches, two first-floor bedrooms, a fully furnished dining room. And he has no flood insurance.

“I was waiting ’til the winter. I was more concerned with ice jams; I didn’t think this would happen,” he said. “It’s my fault.”

He bought the house early this year and spent Tuesday barefoot, dragging out soggy furniture through ankle-deep mud. He dropped each piece by the side of the road, then went back inside to pull up rugs and add them to the pile.

As painful as the destruction was, the fire department said he was doing the right thing.

Deputy Fire Chief Scott Doherty passed out pamphlets to every resident asking them to discard any items that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried with 48 hours. He emphasized that the flood water wasn’t just water — it may have carried with it raw sewage, pesticides and other pollutants.

The fire department advised residents to disinfect all surfaces, wash, steam-clean or dry clean as much as possible and drag everything else outside to dry in the sun. Those items should be thoroughly sprayed with a disinfectant.

Residents were handling the situation well, possibly because of their experience with previous, smaller floods, Doherty said.

“The Stockade residents are a very resilient people,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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