THURMAN - The flash flooding that ravaged roadways, tore out culverts and washed away bridges Saturday, stranded hundreds of Thurman residents and disrupted hundreds of lives.
But days later, the destruction now poses looming long-term issues: a lengthy return to normalcy, and the threat of crushing expenses to rebuild the town's infrastructure.
Soon after the flooding of historic proportions occurred on Saturday, Thurman highway crews worked day and night to restore roadways. Soon after, they were joined by public works employees of Warren County and various area towns in restoring at least one lane of access over the town's roads, most all of which suffered major damage, Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said.
"We saw incredible flows of water like we've never seen before," he said, noting that up to four inches of rain fell within three hours.
"The floodwaters moved huge rocks and boulders - not just debris - tearing out culverts and beaver dams," he said. "The extent of the destruction was due to the storm's sudden intensity."
Tuesday May 31, Tennyson told county leaders the basic restoration of infrastructure could take six weeks more, and the county officials authorized overtime payments for the work.
Many residents living on dead-end roads were still stranded, Tennyson said. Meanwhile hundreds of other residents had to drive 30 miles or more out of their way to get basic supplies.
Tuesday, Supervisor Evelyn Wood estimated that repairing the damage in her town would cost several million dollars, a hefty sum for a town that has an annual budget of about $600,000. Saturday afternoon, she had declared an official state of emergency, an act which pre-qualifies her town for federal and state aid. Noting the destruction, she said that Barton Road, which was just constructed last year, was now completely obliterated by the flooding.
Tuesday, county Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure said there was apparently enough storm damage upstate to trigger Federal Emergency Management Agency aid for infrastructure repairs, and Thurman and other municipalities would likely get their share.
Tennyson said Wednesday that 50 county workers were continuing to work on lengthy shifts in the massive restoration effort. As of Wednesday, many of the destroyed roads had one lane open, but elsewhere, roads were still impassable, isolating dozens of households from access.
He said that South Garnet Lake Road remains impassable, largely because of a nine-foot deep canyon gouged out of a wide swath of the highway. Valley Road, which also suffered considerable damage, remained closed as well. Tennyson predicted that High Street, portions of which were turned into a raging river, would be reopened to traffic by Thursday June 2, and Mountain Road would be the next priority.
"There is easily millions of dollars of damage in Thurman alone," Tennyson said, noting that Stony Creek also endured heavy damage, including Harrisburg Road and three other roadways. A bridge on Harrisburg Road suffered heavy erosion, he said, but it survived the onslaught of water.
Wood said she's described the disaster to state Sen. Betty Little, and she pledged she'd do what she could to expedite money to help bankroll road reconstruction.
"Folks have lost a lot, and many have been stuck in their homes for days," Wood said, noting she was "cautiously optimistic" about receiving state and federal help.
"But any way we go, taxpayers are likely to have a hefty bill," she added, turning her thoughts to the character of local residents.
She said Thurman residents - many still stranded in their homes - have offered to prepare food for highway workers, or to serve as flagmen at reconstruction sites.
"People here have been very understanding and helpful," she said.