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Grant To Aid Flood Recovery Efforts In Mohawk Valley

Lucas Willard

A local energy company presented a $10,000 grant to Catholic Charities Thursday to aid flood recovery efforts more than two years after a devastating storm struck a small Montgomery County community and displaced more than 100 people.

If you walk down Main Street in Fort Plain, it's almost hard to picture what the village looked like two and a half years ago.

In June of 2013, a devastating flood damaged homes, businesses and municipal buildings, and took one life.

Since then, an army of volunteers have worked to help rebuild the village. It' s easy for Fort Plain mayor Guy Barton to express pride in his community.

"I'm so proud of the community, I gloat. OK, I gloat. I'm a cheerleader! I don't have no short skirt on, but I can be a cheerleader. I'm true. You believe in a community, you can make it work!"

The flood was caused by 8 inches of rain that swelled the Otsquago Creek over its banks and into the village. It occurred on the anniversary of another devastating flood.

"Seven years prior to the exact same day of 2006, we had the first flood that came back off the Mohawk River that surrounded the village and came in from the east. Same day, seven years later, we had eight inches of rain come down the Otsquago Creek, and it flooded from THIS way."

Fort Plain, like many Mohawk Valley communities, was not only affected by the June rainstorm, but also Tropical Storms Lee, Irene, and Superstorm Sandy.

On Thursday, natural gas company Dominion presented a $10,000 check to Catholic Charities to support its work helping get families back on their feet. Stan Ossowski was on hand representing Dominion.

"We are a member of the community. We've been here in the town of Minden for 15 years. We're trying to a be a good neighbor to everybody, and this is why it's important to us."

The $10,000 was Dominion's second Critical Community Needs grant awarded to support efforts in Fort Plain. A previous award was for $2,500.

Wilhelmina Murray-Davis, Program Director for Catholic Charities Disaster Response & Recovery Office, said the organization has caseworkers throughout the state and works to guide flood victims through paperwork, file claims, and everything else to pick up the pieces.

"That would be anywhere from helping them get food stamps to giving them Walmart cards for appliances that were damaged, having a contractor come in a rebuild a back porch that was totally wiped away."

Back in the summer of 2013, just weeks after the flood, New York state launched the $16 million Mohawk Valley and Upstate Flood Recovery Program. Those dollars are still going to work. And Mayor Barton said he's worked his hardest to write grants and continue restoration efforts.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said his office’s emergency preparedness meetings have been very well attended.

"People do want to be prepared. We had national guard come down to actually deliver the instruction on that, preparing simple things, having a plan on how to get out of that house, because sometimes you don't have a lot of time. When I was up at the Red Cross shelter, there was people there that couldn't even get dressed, they were in pajamas because they had to leave the house that quickly."

While Main Street looks great today, there are still infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. Fort Plain, like all towns and villages rebuilding, is hoping to make their communities more resilient for the next flood.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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