A fallen tree in the town of Minerva.
Tropical Storm Irene arrived in Minerva and vicinity with a vengeance Aug. 28. The rain and high winds caused numerous trees and large branches to come crashing to the ground, pulling down power lines with them and snapping power poles.
By mid-morning, the power was out in most of Minerva and Olmstedville.
The Town of Minerva’s Irene response began four days before the rain and wind hit town. Weather and emergency warnings from Essex County began to appear on Thursday.
The Town learned about National Grid’s plans for Irene in a regional conference call on Friday. The utility was gearing up to respond to major power outages across the region. Flyers were posted around town announcing that the town beach and transfer station would be closed that Sunday. Campers at the Minerva Lake Campsite were encouraged to evacuate.
By Saturday, the Town’s Emergency Preparedness Planning was in full swing. Members of the Town’s Emergency Preparedness Committee began calls to many of the Town’s senior citizens and other vulnerable households to make them aware of storm.
By mid-morning Sunday, the rain had started and the power was out in Minerva and Olmstedville. By 1 p.m., Town Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey declared a state of emergency in Minerva.
With no power at Town Hall, an operations center was set up at the Minerva Fire House with the phone lines from the town rolled over. Members of the Emergency Preparedness Committee established a shelter Sunday afternoon, which closed because of limited need.
Throughout Sunday, the town’s Highway Department was busy removing trees and opening roads. While most roads were open by Monday, a few were particularly hard hit with downed trees and power lines. National Grid advised the Town not to remove the lines without the utility’s assistance.
Roads that remained closed through Monday included McKee, Fourteenth, Irishtown Road between Schroon Lake and the intersection of O’Neill Road, and Trout Brook Road.
The Minerva Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad was also busy during the storm. During the storm and in its aftermath, 15 members of the Department provided 720 man hours of activity including manning six downed power lines, pumping five basements, one EMS call, two mutual aid calls and 40 good intent calls.
Recognizing the severity of the storm, Essex County established a 24/7 emergency operations center in Lewis. The Town of Minerva maintained regular contact with the center and provided regular status updates to them about conditions in Essex County’s southernmost town.
Essex County Department of Public Works visited Minerva following the storm to inspect roads and bridges. Essex County Sheriff’s Department paid a visit to Minerva Tuesday to be sure that the needs of the Town were being met.
Communication during the storm and the days that followed was challenging. A telephone outage impacting about half the town hit Monday. The Town’s MinervaNY Facebook page was used to share information about the storm and recovery efforts.
Contact between National Grid and the Town of Minerva was continuous throughout the storm and the days that followed with daily conference calls. The Town provided the utility with regular updates about conditions in the town and the effort to restore power.
Most Minerva and Olmstedville residents had power restored by late Tuesday. Trout Brook Road remained closed through Friday evening due to the downed power lines that prevented highway crews from clearing the trees. National Grid was able to reach Trout Brook on Friday and restore service.
FEMA has declared Essex County eligible for individual and public aid for damages from Irene. Details are available at the Minerva Town Hall.
Minerva’s long-term emergency preparedness planning helped the Irene response. Emergency preparedness planning began in Minerva in 2000 when the Minerva Service Organization initiated its development. Since then, the plan has been updated and improved through the work of the Town’s Emergency Preparedness Committee. In July, a community preparedness drill was held with nearly 40 residents participating.