By DAN HEATH
---- — 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.
okTowns were also able to apply for federal and state funds to repair their own infrastructure, including roads, bridges and culverts.
Chesterfield Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow said his municipality received $214,094 in federal and state funding for repair of town roads. That included replacement of a large culvert that washed out on Trout Pond Road and a number of roads in the hamlet of Clintonville that were ripped apart by the storm.
Town crews started repairs immediately, and most work was done within a week.
“We didn’t wait for the money,” Morrow said. They couldn’t. Officials just had to hope reimbursements would be approved later.
The town has received most of the funding for which it qualified.
He said the relationship with FEMA and the New York State Office of Emergency Management was excellent.
“They were very good to work with.”
DEBRIS TASK FORCE
Lewis Town Supervisor David Blades said his community received slightly more than $100,000 on its own. Federal and state officials were very helpful, he said.
“I was extremely pleased with the way the process went.”
Repairs were under way immediately and took about three weeks. One of the biggest projects was replacing a washed-out culvert on Moss Road, which is on a school bus route.
The Town Council recently approved replacement of a bridge on seasonal Carlott Road.
The funding does not include what is necessary for some unmet needs, such as debris cleanup. A Debris Task Force has been formed and is working with FEMA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on that issue.
Jaquish said nine sites have been identified as eligible for funding.
“I think, overall, the public-assistance liaison people have been very good.”
The damage was not as intense in other areas of the North Country.
Clinton County was granted $4,366,611 in public-assistance funds from FEMA, $3,153,329 of which has already been received.
Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said his area sustained significantly less damage than neighboring counties.
“We had less than $500,000 in damages,” he said.
The Lincoln Brook Bridge, County Route 48, in the Town of Franklin was only recently restored after rising flood waters caused significant damage during and after Irene.
County Highway Superintendent Jon Hutchins said he received about $350,000 in FEMA funding that was used to complete necessary repair work to get the road back in working order.
He said minor repairs costing a little more than $12,000 were made to the dam at the Gerald Eggleston Memorial Park in the Town of Brandon.
According to Don Caetano of FEMA, Franklin County did not receive any individual assistance for damages, only minimal public assistance to help fund the repairs for the public projects.
— Staff Writers Miranda Orso and Ashleigh Livingston contributed to this report.
A year after the massive Tropical Storm, the North Country is still picking up the pieces. This is the second in a series of articles catching up with those who found themselves in the center of the storm as victims and rescuers and what life post-Irene has brought them. FEMA FUNDING Here's a look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency money received by Essex County for communities in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene: Essex County: $4,089,200 for 46 projects. Town of Jay: $2,016,000 for 51 projects. Town of Ticonderoga: $1.96 million for 15 projects. Town of Keene: $765,900 for 35 projects. Village of Port Henry: $428,100 for five projects. Town of Moriah: $360,000 for two projects. Town of Lewis: $308,800 for 16 projects. Town of Crown Point: $165,100 for six projects. Town of Elizabethtown: $159,400 for four projects. Olympic Regional Development Authority (for Whiteface): $141,700 for seven projects. Town of Chesterfield: $108,600 for eight projects. Town of Westport: $108,400 for seven projects. Lake Placid Fire Department: $62,000 for one project. Town of Wilmington: $56,200 for three projects. Upper Jay Fire Department: $47,700 for five projects. Town of St. Armand: $42,000 for one project. Town of Essex: $7,700 for one project.