MORIAH-After Gov. Andrew Cuomo landed in a helicopter at the Moriah Central School April 29, he declared a State Disaster Emergency in Essex County in the wake of a storm that left roadways and homes flooded throughout the region.
Cuomo gave a press conference in the town of Moriah, one of the hardest hit areas, at the site of the Moriah Broad Street Bridge, which collapsed after a flash flood on April 27. The bridge is located on one of the busiest roads in the county, County Route 4 between the hamlet of Moriah and the village of Port Henry on Lake Champlain.
"I am going to declare a disaster in the county of Essex," Cuomo said. "While that doesn't sound like goods news, it actually is good news. What the declaration of emergency does is it allows the state to deploy resources to assist local governments all throughout the county. Meaning that the state resources, state equipment, state funds aren't just used on "
Cuomo said this would mean state funds, equipment and resources could be used on local roads and facilities, as opposed to simply state roads and facilities. He said he would continue to deploy the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Transportation. He said he would also be taking an assessment of damages across the state; if New York qualifies he will apply for federal disaster emergency help.
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, state Sen. Betty Little, state DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, and state DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald had spoken before Cuomo at the event.
Scozzafava thanked Cuomo for providing state support.
"We have the state of New York DOT equipment and some employees on this site, today, helping this municipality make these emergency repairs. And I want you to know, a year ago, that would have been unheard of. This is the man we owe it to," Scozzafava said, referring to Cuomo.
Douglas struck a similar note, before giving the governor a binder filled with pictures and articles from the media regarding the flooding, as well as preliminary cost estimates for fixing the damage.
"When I first contacted (Cuomo's) office, the first response I got was 'How can we help?'" Douglas said. "It wasn't, 'We don't have the resources; we don't have the money.' It was 'What do you need, and how quickly do you need it?'"
As of Monday, May 2, 13 of county's 18 towns were under a state of emergency.
Little said Cuomo's presence at the disaster site was a demonstration of his commitment to local people.
"I never cease to be amazed by the power of water,"Little said. "But if you were going to write a book as to how to deal with a crisis, this would be it. Because what we have here is teamwork and leadership by the governor."
Martens said the DEC had been quite busy over the prior 48 hours.
"As most of you know, along with this bridge went a sewer line, an 18-inch sewer line, that was ruptured," Martens said. "Thanks to the fast work of the town and DEC, you can see the line has been shored up, repaired, patched. It obviously needs additional work, but if it wasn't for the quick action of the local officials here, we'd be spewing raw sewage, eventually into Lake Champlain, because that's where it would head from this spot."
Martens said DEC inspectors had been monitoring regional dams, and DEC rangers had been laying sandbags and clearing debris.
McDonald stressed the importance of teamwork in the disaster response.
"I think one of the messages we've heard is the traveling public doesn't distinguish between a state road, a county road, a town road,"McDonald said. "What's important is that everybody came together to respond to an emergency situation."
McDonald said that's what DOT employees are best at. Cuomo toured other flood sites that day.
"The goal is not just to rebuild, the goal is to rebuild better than we were before," he said. "And that's what we're going to do together. That's what we do as New Yorkers."