Flood watch

Melissa Stagnaro

I started grumbling as soon as I heard the short blast of the air horn. Every golfer knows that sound, which heralds the premature end to a round of golf due to Mother Nature’s vagaries.

Not that I wasn’t expecting it. It was Thursday, after all, the night of my weekly golf league. It always seems to rain on golf night. And there have been no half ways in our weather lately. It’s either gorgeous, sunny days or torrential downpours, nothing in between.

We were just finishing up our fifth hole, the fourteenth, since we were playing Canasawacta’s back nine. Ominous dark clouds had moved in, but the rain had yet to come. There was the tell-tale rumble of thunder in the distance though, which we assumed was what prompted the signal to halt play. My most fervent hope was that we’d make it back to the club house before the skies opened up.

For once, my luck held. My opponent and I were able to not only make it back, but even stow our clubs before the first heavy drops of rain fell. And I was safely under cover on the porch by the time it started raining in earnest.

I guess I should explain that the beauty of the Gofers (the unfortunate name by which our league is known) is that is just as much about camaraderie as it is about golf. So, while I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to finish my round, I was still looking forward to dinner with at least a representative sampling of my fellow Gofers. Which is why I didn’t exactly welcome the intrusion of yet another piercing sound. This time it was the pager I’ve taken to carrying now that I’m covering the police/fire beat.

It was hard to feel sorry for myself once I heard what was going on, however, since it was flashing flooding conditions on two roads in the Town of Greene. I feared it was just the beginning, since the Southern part of the county had gotten hit hard the night before and I knew even more rain was expected.

A low battery kept me from staying tuned to the radio chatter while we ate, but my thoughts were divided between the conversation at hand and speculation about what was happening 25 miles or so down Route 12. Then I got a text message alerting me to the worsening situation in Greene. According to my source, much of the village was underwater.

I’m not going to lie, I was looking forward to going home after dinner and enjoying a rare evening of relaxation, devoid of any and all responsibility. But as soon as the text came through, I knew I’d be heading to Greene.

As I made my way down 12 in what could only be described as a torrential downpour, I wondered how to best approach the village. The decision was made for me, though, by Brisben’s Fire Police, who were diverting all southbound traffic to County Road 32.

I enjoyed the scenic route – as I always think of that section of East River Road – the rest of the way into Greene. I couldn’t help but notice how high the Chenango looked, though, and I have to admit I was worried about what I’d find upon my arrival in the quaint municipality.

At the terminus of 32, I turned onto 206, expecting to cross the bridge into downtown Greene. My efforts to do so were hampered, however, by the fact that traffic wasn’t being allowed over the bridge. So, I parked off Cherry Street and walked over.

Ironically, I needed my sunglasses, as the clouds had parted and the sun was shining bright against a beautiful blue sky.

My head had been filled with the images I’d seen of Greene in the aftermath of the 2006 floods, and I was worried about the damage this series of storms may have wrought so close to the five year anniversary of that disaster. Thankfully, my worse fears were not realized. Not to downplay the severity of these storms.

The flood waters had receded substantially by the time I arrived, but plenty of evidence was left behind of how high they’d climbed. South Canal and Willard Streets were impassable. The western end of Genesee Street was still partially underwater, but the State Highway crew was able to reopen it after unclogging the storm drains.

Some homes had been temporarily evacuated, and basements were already being pumped out. As I walked up North Canal Street, I saw people gathered on the bridge over the Birdsall Creek. There were four things which drew my attention as I approached. The first was the sheer volume of water still raging through the normally placid creek. The second was the gravel and debris strewn in the parking lot of the laundromat situated next to the bridge. (Ironically, the “open” sign was still illuminated, despite the fact that the business was obviously going to be closed for awhile.) The third was the skeletal remains of a large tree which had been thrown half onto the bridge by the deluge of water. The fourth, pointed out to me by Village Trustee Rod Andrews, was an electric pole being held up by on of the Village Electric trucks, the soil in which it had previously been set completely washed away.

Rod was out surveying the damage, and he was kind enough to let me walk with him along the banks of Birdsall Creek. He explained that after the floods of 2006, the village had used FEMA money to shore up the creek’s banks with rocks of various sizes, known as riprap. In some areas, the riff raff had held. In others, it had washed away and contributed to the problem.

I was amazed, really, at how much damage had been caused by the runoff in the creek. And I realized how lucky the homes along its length had been, because if had risen even another six inches, the devastation would have been multiplied ten fold.

I snapped pictures as I walked through the village that night. My favorite, if you will, is one of water bubbling up around a man-hole cover on North Chenango Street. All that water, just below the surface – it served as a poignant reminder to me of how much worse things could have been if a few more inches had fallen.

Of course, we did get more rain that night, but for the most part Greene was spared further flooding. Bainbridge, Afton and Coventry weren’t as lucky. My heart goes out to all those affected by the floods.

Also, thumbs up to all the emergency crews who braved the storms themselves, not to mention the aftermath, to come to the aid of their neighbors in their time of need. Without their dedication, many of these  situations could have been much, much worse.

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