ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County suffered the most extensive damage when Tropical Storm Irene struck the North Country.
Nothing much was happening until late in the afternoon on Aug. 28, 2011, Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish remembers. Then, things turned bad in a hurry.
Report after report came in about severe flooding around the county.
“We were hearing about all kinds of rescues,” Jaquish said.
The county radio system was down for 24 hours at one point, and Internet and phone service was also interrupted at times. It was fortunate the 911 system was never affected, Jaquish says now.
The command center established during the storm was staffed around the clock for 18 days in a row, with all available crews racking up loads of overtime.
In addition to the heroic efforts of first-responders, Jaquish said, public-works crews and utility companies were outstanding during the event and its aftermath.
Repairs and cleanup have been extensive and expensive.
Don Caetano, external affairs representative for Region 2 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the agency approved $13.4 million for public-works projects in Essex County, of which $6.35 million has been released to New York state.
FEMA had also approved and paid $4.2 million in individual assistance to private homeowners.
Much of the public-works money went to the county to cover repairs for the Essex County Department of Public Works, the Emergency Operations Center, Sheriff’s Department and the Town of Essex Fire Department. Jaquish said the county received slightly more than $4 million for those entities.
The county served as a conduit for municipalities to apply for funds to repair county-controlled infrastructure in their jurisdictions, with communities getting approval for between $6,200 and $1.9 million.
In all, the county and municipalities received $10.7 million for 234 projects.
“Many of these are done or near completion,” Jaquish said.
In some cases, the solution was to erect a temporary bridge to get traffic flowing until a permanent replacement could be put in place.