I got to see this at Christmas, and it brought tears to my eyes. It was put together by one of the high school students in Rochester, and used as part of his application to college. An incredible piece of work, and really gives you a sense of what was going on up there when Hurricane Irene completely cut off these towns from the rest of the world.
While we lucked out with Irene where I am in the Mid-Hudson Valley, Central Vermont took it hard. If we hadn’t gotten out in advance of the storm, we’d probably only be getting out of the state now. Facebook became a makeshift disaster recovery system in a really fascinating way (someone should really study the emergence of that, it’s pretty damn impressive).
There are lots of pictures of this event, but these Helicopter Survey images are some of the most striking, as you can see the damage at scale.
The flood waters here in the Hudson Valley have largely subsided. That 12.8′ prediction for the Wappingers turned out to be way off. It crested north of 15′ (second highest recorded value, above the 2007 spring flood). As that’s the only river with a sensor in Dutchess county, it is an indicator of how swollen every little creek was. One of those, the Fallkill, which runs through the City of Poughkeepsie, breached it’s banks putting a bunch of city blocks under water.
Our town, LaGrange, fared very well. I give a lot of credit to our municipal government and public servants for that. They were putting rapid updates with critical information on their website as the storm progressed. They preemptively declared a state of emergency to keep people off the roads. They had dry ice and water stations running before the storm even arrived, and they were constantly monitoring and closing off road sections once they became dangerous.
For our particular neighborhood the most important thing the town did was 5 years ago. They replaced the culvert that lets a little stream cross under the main road into the neighborhood with one that was just gigantic. When they did it I was really puzzled, because it seemed like a ridiculous over kill. On Sunday we walked down there, and found the culvert was 3/4 full. So extra kudos to whoever decided that needed to be upgraded, because they were right, and if that hadn’t been done, we’d be stranded in our neighborhood. I sent a email of thanks to our officials over this response, because they deserved it.
Another party that did a lot to minimize the effect in our area was Central Hudson. We had a double blizzard here a couple of years ago that completely taxed their emergency response. NY state government called them to task on it, and they started focusing hard on disaster recovery. For the last two years they’ve been doing an incredible amount of preventative maintenance, new taller poles, backup pole structures, cutting back trees that could be dangerous to main lines. They brought in additional crews from Kansas ahead of the storm, knowing they were going to need more manpower. They also started communicating a lot more during disasters. I’ve gotten a daily email from them every day since the storm hit with an update of what’s going on. Their storm watch website tracks every single outage report, and in 30 seconds you can report an outage via their mobile site.
There is a lot of damage here, mostly caused by the water. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that bad. And a reason for that is that we’ve actually got a lot of organizations, our local governments, and our local utilities, investing in advance in resilient infrastructure.
So to all that were a part of that, I just want to say: THANK YOU.