Press-Republican

April 28, 2011

Moriah tackles storm damage

LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

MORIAH — Kelli Valentine of Moriah awoke Wednesday morning to find Ensign Pond Road had washed out both east and west of her house.

She was isolated.

"I didn't know what to do."

WALKING BRIDGE

She still has electricity and telephone service, so she contacted the Essex County Department of Public Works — since Ensign Pond Road is a county road — to get some help.

"They're putting in a walking bridge for me. Today, they put in planks so my children and I could walk across."

Valentine, who has three small children, said she called someone to pick them up on the other side of the washout.

"I can't put a car on the other side because I can't get my car out."

Valentine still managed to make it to work as manager of the Port Henry Stewart's Shop.

"It has been a busy day," she said Thursday. "I hope they fix my road soon, at least the culvert on the Moriah side."

Culverts on Ensign Pond Road, which connects Moriah with Route 9 in North Hudson, washed out during the storm, county officials said, and must be replaced before the road can be repaired.

'OVERWHELMED'

Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said his town has two collapsed bridges and at least a dozen roads closed due to washouts and flooding.

"We're trying to line equipment up now with other towns. We're overwhelmed. We don't have the money, manpower or equipment to do it all. We'll work with other towns through mutual-aid contracts."

One issue, he said, is that the detour around the collapsed Broad Street Bridge uses the remote Forge Hollow Bridge, which needs an engineering inspection to make sure it can handle the traffic.

The town has barred heavy trucks and buses from the Forge Hollow Bridge because of that, he said.

"We're concerned about that. Once Pelfershire (Road) is open, trucks can go through there."

Pelfershire Road connects County Route 7 in Mineville to Route 9N/22 and is closed due to a washout that is under repair.

SAFETY ISSUES

The supervisor said water from the overflowing Mill Brook is scouring under roads and bridge footers and is likely what caused the Broad Street and Titus Road spans to fall in.

Witherbee Road between Moriah Center and Witherbee also collapsed after it was undermined Wednesday morning.

"We don't want to send school buses or trucks on anything that might not be safe," Scozzafava said. "We're doing everything we can do."

The sewer main that was broken when Broad Street Bridge collapsed has been repaired temporarily, he said.

"The Broad Street Bridge is a main artery. It's 6,000 vehicles a day. It's the most traveled road we have. We really have to concentrate on (replacing) that."

He said the town has more than $1.5 million in damage.

"We're overwhelmed, but we'll get through it. We're trying to do as much as we can with town forces. The people of Moriah have been great. They understand the situation."

On Wednesday afternoon, Trombley Towing of Mineville removed the sport utility vehicle that had been perched on the edge of the collapsed Broad Street Bridge.

Anna Maygood of Moriah escaped injury early Wednesday morning when the bridge crumpled as she was driving across it.

Workers used a flatbed wrecker and hooked metal cables to the car to pull it off the edge and onto the bed.

The car had mostly undercarriage damage, including a punctured gas tank.

DISASTER DECLARATION

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he's been working to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo declare Essex County a disaster area, so it will be eligible for state and federal funding.

"The Governor's Office wants some more information. I'm trying to get the governor to come here. I want him to see Moriah and Jay and the other places. I want him to see what we're dealing with. He needs to take a look at it."

He said damage must exceed $127,000 to get the designation, and it's way over that.

"We're already there. County damage alone is $2 million. We each have hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage in our towns."

Once the county gets the state disaster designation, it can also receive a federal declaration, he said.

"Then the money starts flowing. But until the governor signs off, they (federal officials) won't even look at it."

The county is under a declared state of emergency that lasts for five days, he said, and will be probably be renewed.

COSTLY DAMAGE

County Manager Daniel Palmer, Department of Public Works Superintendent Anthony LaVigne and County Purchasing Agent Linda Wolf are holding meetings, he said, to find ways to pay for the reconstruction.

The county lost two bridges — the Broad Street Bridge and the Titus Road Bridge, both in Moriah — due to the storm.

The county has a $16 million fund balance it might be able to use, Douglas said, but nothing will be decided until Monday's County Board of Supervisors meeting.

"They're going to come to come with three or four recommendations."

If the county doesn't get disaster aid, paying for reconstruction could amount to a 30-percent tax-levy increase, Douglas said.

"My job is to get this declared a disaster area so we can get reimbursement. I asked all supervisors to keep documented information about their costs."

CAMPGROUND

The Bulwagga Bay Town Campground on Lake Champlain was due to open for the season Saturday but will instead open a week later on May 7, Scozzafava said.

"We don't have (public) water there yet. What we'll do is extend the season for a week on the other end."

SCHROON FLOODING

The Town of Schroon joined many other towns by declaring a state of emergency Thursday.

"They have flooding; roads are closed," Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said.

He said his department is dealing with road closures and flooding all over the county but is getting help from the State Emergency Management Office.

ROUTE 73 CLOSED

Work is under way to try to reopen Route 73 between Keene and Lake Placid, closed by flooding along with Route 86 between Wilmington and Lake Placid.

"To get to Lake Placid from Keene, you have to go toward Plattsburgh and come back on Route 3," Jaquish said.

Route 73 through the Cascade Lakes was expected to be reopened to at least one lane sometime Friday.

Email Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com