Much of Saratoga County was spared significant damage from Tropical Storm Irene, but not so the village of Waterford.
J. Bert Mahoney, mayor of the village that sits at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, said 168 homes and businesses were severely damaged by the floodwaters, with 50 having three and four feet of water in their living rooms and kitchens.
“Some of the people can’t live in their homes yet,” Mahoney said. “I never saw water that high in my lifetime. It was worse than 1977.”
He said 158 firefighters from 18 different fire companies joined in the cleanup. They removed debris from flooded houses and pumped out flooded basements.
“They did a fantastic job. Everybody pulled together,” Mahoney said.
Dick Castle of First Street said Irene blew in late Saturday, Aug. 27, but the water really didn’t start rising up Front Street and First Street until Monday, Aug. 29.
“The water just kept coming,” Castle said. “We went to my daughter’s house.”
With the help of his six grown children, he was able to move back into his house in December. He received $1,800 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency but said his renovation costs were much higher. Castle, 73, and his neighbors still have work to do on their homes.
“It left an awful lot of mud behind, killed lawns,” Castle said. The mud also ran into basements and living rooms.
He has been living on First Street not far from the waterfront Battery Park for almost 50 years. He said the winter ice flooding storms of 1977 and 1996 were almost as bad as Irene, but they didn’t bring the mud up into homes and cellars.
At the Waterford Harbor Visitor Center near Battery Park, the Mohawk River came over its banks and nearly eight feet into the visitor center, which is operated by the town of Waterford. John Vanluyk of Halfmoon, a volunteer at the visitor center, said water came into the visitor center and damaged the interior of the building, including an elevator, which hasn’t yet been repaired.
Boaters in the harbor were warned about the oncoming storm and allowed to moor their boats between Lock 2 and Lock 3 of the Erie Canal. The boats, some from other parts of the world, that took advantage of this had to leave their boats there for more than a month while repairs were made to various parts of the canal system.
Paul Lent, Saratoga County’s emergency services director, said Waterford was hit hardest by Irene, but other towns and cities sustained lowland flooding, washed-out roads and downed tree limbs and other debris.
Saratoga County had 159 public assistance projects approved by FEMA, with a price tag of $2.45 million, and another 220 individual assistance projects approved, at a cost of $1.15 million. The federal government pays 75 percent of the cost of such projects, with the state paying the rest.
The village of Waterford alone had six public assistance projects approved, at a total cost of $426,958. The town of Waterford had 15 public assistance projects approved, with a total price of $151,089.
“We are in the home stretch of wrapping up the public assistance [projects],” said Matthew Russell, a FEMA research specialist.
Russell said New York state took a big hit from Irene and then Tropical Storm Lee, which came through nine days later.
Saratoga County itself received some $236,658 in FEMA aid for Irene damage to county roads and highways. For example, County Route 75 in Stillwater lost a culvert and was washed out completely in that area.
Some of the FEMA money went to fire departments that spent a lot of time and money pumping out basements in low-lying areas, Lent said.
“We were really lucky compared to our neighbors. All in all, we got away pretty good,” Lent said, comparing Saratoga County with Schenectady, Schoharie and Montgomery counties. “We have had ice storms that have done more damage.”
In the town of Clifton Park, 15 public assistance projects — as opposed to individual assistance projects — were awarded $230,745 by FEMA. Jude Hazard, the town’s public information officer, said the town had certain areas that flooded, causing sinkholes in some roads.
He said a stormwater pipe system caused major damage on Valdepenas Lane in the Clifton Knolls development. The town will receive $93,000 from FEMA for work associated with that project alone.
The North Woods Nature Preserve off Longkill Road also had some significant flooding that required the town to do some major repairs, he said.
The Mohawk River came over its banks in some areas along Riverview Road, and this required some evacuations. Hazard said there were also extended power outages during and after the storm. The town opened a shelter in the Shenendehowa Adult Community Center during those outages.
The town was also reimbursed for gasoline and other costs associated with maintaining portable power generators at traffic lights.
In the city of Saratoga Springs, racing fans canceled rooms and headed home after the running of the Travers Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 27, 2011. Thoroughbred races at the historic track on Union Avenue were canceled the next day.
Many businesses stayed closed on Sunday, Aug. 28, some because they had no electricity. Lillian’s Restaurant on Broadway was among those few that did open because they had power on that section of Broadway.
“We did great,” said Lillian’s owner, Ray Morris.
Mechanicville Mayor Anthony Sylvester said his city was lucky, with little extensive damage from Irene. He said the state Canal Corp. docks on the Hudson River were covered with water on Aug. 28 and 29. There was also some flooding along Round Lake Avenue, where the Tenandeho Creek went over its banks briefly.
In the village of Stillwater, there was flooding in 35 housing units on Ferry Lane and two homes on Bunce Lane had water in cellars, according to Mayor Ernest Martin. He said water did not get into the basements on Ferry Lane but did flood yards.
“We were lucky,” Martin said.
The village and town of Stillwater and the city of Mechanicville held a collection drive for water and diapers to hope those who were less fortunate. The three communities were able to provide two truckloads of water and diapers that were transported to a relief warehouse in Schoharie County, Martin said.
Martin said other communities stepped up to help the Mechanicville area when it was hit by a tornado in 1998. He said it takes a disaster to bring out the goodness of people helping other people.