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Cleanup Continues In Rensselaer Co. Following Wednesday Storm

Cleanup is continuing in Rensselaer County following heavy storms and widespread damage Wednesday evening.

Rain and severe flooding took its toll across Rensselaer County. Roads were washed out, trees downed, drainage ditches blown out to as much as five times normal size by rushing waters.

Credit WAMC / Dave Lucas

County Executive Steve McLaughlin says pavement came off in sheets in some places, roads buckled, culverts washed out, businesses were damaged, and some residents stranded in their homes had to be rescued in boats.

"And I would say in many places, in my opinion, as bad or worse than what we saw with Irene. That's not the case everywhere. Some places got hit pretty hard. But there are some spots that are as bad or worse than Irene."

A decade on from that storm, McLaughlin says unnecessary travel is discouraged with the county under a state of emergency.

"There were docks, floating way. Canoes, kayaks, propane tanks, an entire pool was jammed under a bridge, there's a dumpster up the road that got loose and just went under a bridge and is now jammed under there, creating its own damn and creating even more problems. And the amount of water that we were seeing last night was just unbelievable. And we were right here last night around the corner, across the street, those apartments, they were underwater, it was up to the car doors, up to the windows. So it's almost hard to put into words.”

McLaughlin says it's a blessing that nobody got hurt or killed.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined McLaughlin and Congressman Antonio Delgado for a walking tour of devastation in the Sand Lake Town Hall neighborhood.

Credit WAMC / Dave Lucas

“The local officials have some work to do. And it's clear that this was a pretty significant event that really is going to cause a lot of disruption, especially for these folks up the road here. You know, the federal government is here to help. The Department of Agriculture has a number of programs that could potentially be utilized, certainly for farmers who were impacted by the storm. There's crop insurance, there's noninsured crop assistance, there's assistance for livestock if livestock was killed as a result of the storm. There is opportunities for waste removal through NRCS. So there are a series of programs that we could make available right away.”

Crews are out making temporary emergency repairs. The monetary amount of damage is yet to be fully assessed. Delgado says the number one issue is “…keeping our communities safe. The fact of the matter is, that should be of paramount importance. And when we're going to have these types of weather events, we got to make sure our infrastructure is resilient, and that it can sustain itself through any type of condition. So this is the moment, this is the moment to make sure that we are accounting for our service, transportation, our bridges, and do all that we can to protect lives and our communities moving forward.”

McLaughlin says some repairs could take weeks. The county says officials and the American Red Cross will be assisting impacted residents, including providing bottled water. People with well water are advised to not drink it if their areas are flooded.