Route 9N, a road that connects several area towns between Keene and Upper Jay, was one of many roads that was destroyed by flooding.
Neither New York State Sen. Elizabeth “Betty” Little or U.S. Rep. Bill Owens could believe what they saw as they toured the town of Jay with supervisor and Essex County Board chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas.
“Bridges are ruined, roads have lost the shoulders where the ground has just dropped out,” Little said. “The Wells Library is filled with water. The back of the Upper Jay Fire Department is ripped off.”
Little said she was amazed at the destruction that had taken place since Tropical Storm Irene went through the North Country on Aug. 28, along with the following river and brook flooding that led to massive damage throughout the region, including the hamlets of Au Sable Forks, Jay and Upper Jay.
“I continue to be amazed at the power of water,” Little said.
Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said the level to which waterways rose during the storm was what surprised him.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Jaquish said. “It is so widespread in Au Sable Forks, Jay and Upper Jay. “The water flooded out buildings that you would have never thought would have been flooded out.”
Douglas said the first concern for the town was to make sure that everyone was safe.
“We’re just getting everyone into a safe situation right now,” Douglas said, adding that the shelter at the town offices in Au Sable Forks housed 27 people on Aug. 28 and is currently being used to help people get food and water who need it.
“The National Guard is here and helping us,” Douglas said. “We are working to get a new main line between Jay and Black Brook, but that was destroyed.”
In Au Sable Forks, there is a boil water order for drinking and culinary purposes.
“Do not drink the water without boiling it first,” the statement reads. “Bring all water to a boil in a clean container; let it boil for one minute and let it cool before using; use bottled water certified by NYSDOH; or use water from a public water system approved by NYSDOG. Boiled or bottled water certified by NYSDOH should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth and food preparation until further notice.”
Douglas said the order may be in effect for a while.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is coming in to look at the situation and we just have a temporary line that the DPW set up,” he said.
Overall, Douglas said the level of destruction was overwhelming.
“We lost everything,” Douglas said. “Infrastructure, homes. It was up to my knees on Main Street Sunday night.”
Douglas said he had FEMA aid applications available at the town offices, and that he was sure state and federal aid would be on the way for private homeowners as well as municipalities.
“I believe that we will get that federal declaration this time,” Douglas said. “The governor (Andrew Cuomo) has called for a disaster declaration for the county. Just in my town alone, the damages are in the millions of dollars.”
Douglas said a lot of facilities had been destroyed in Au Sable Forks, including the youth baseball fields and basketball courts.
At the same time, Douglas said he was appreciative of the help that the town was receiving, both from outside sources and from neighbor helping neighbor.
“Everyone has been gracious to each other and to us,” Douglas said.