THURMAN -- Local residents walked through raging knee-deep waters in road washouts Sunday to deliver groceries to stranded neighbors while others hiked into homes isolated by floodwaters to check on the infirm and elderly -- as dozens of highway employees worked around the clock to restore roads.
The washouts on virtually every road in town, along with destroyed bridges prompted town Supervisor Evelyn Wood to declare a State of Emergency Saturday afternoon.
Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure said Sunday that about 100 highway workers from towns across the Warren County were deployed where needed in the county -- many of them in Thurman -- to haul gravel and help make temporary repairs. He said the aim is to get at least one lane of washed-out roadways reopened, so stranded citizens can get food and medicine -- and allow access, if needed, by emergency vehicles.
He said a number of private road-building contractors were called in to help make the repairs, and that Peckham Materials in Chestertown opened their plant so they could provide gravel and stone as needed.
"Our entire force is out -- we have every man available at work repairing the damage," he said late-morning Sunday. "It's hard to rebuild now, however, because a lot of the washouts still have water streaming through them."
LaFlure confirmed that the Don Potter Bridge and the Combs Road Bridge were both washed away, and total road washouts were scattered through town.
"It's our priority at this point to get dead-end roads and total washouts passable for emergency vehicles."
He said that in many places, culverts 6 to 8 feet in diameter had been washed out and ripped up by floodwaters.
"We're dealing with major issues," he said.
LaFlure said shortly after noon Sunday that highway workers had reopened one lane of Garnet Lake Road which had endured major washouts which had stranded many in the northern end of Thurman.
Wood said that neighbors had been seen walking through deep floodwaters to get to neighbors to offer help, bring in groceries, or check on their welfare.
"Everybody's finding ways to help others out," she said.
Wood said one man was driving a bucket loader around, filling in deep washouts on people's driveways so they could get out.
Also, people with access to nearby towns loaned their vehicles to those stranded on the other side of washouts, she added. Reports were heard of people leaving keys in the ignition for townspeople to use in an emergency.
Others were merely calling on folks they knew had medical issues to see if they were okay.
Evelyn Wood, 75, of Garnet Lake Road -- who relies on an oxygen machine -- was among those called. She said mid-morning Sunday that Jean Coulard, president of the Thurman Emergency Squad, called her to make sure she was okay.
The emergency squad headquarters, however, was cut off from most of the townsfolk by washouts on High Street and other roadways. Wood said that for some time, the squad was stranded.
Town officials said that the Thurman Town Hall basement was flooded with about a foot of water, and a sump pump was keeping the water level below a foot deep. The Harris House, which hosts various town functions, also had several feet of water in the basement, and a hallway was flooded, it was reported.
Wood said that at one point Sunday morning, she saw a fish floundering in the roadway by the town hall, and a town empoloyee threw it back into a nearby stream.
Sunday, Wood had been up since 6 a.m. surveying damage and trying to get in touch with people to see if they were okay. She said that she had gone through three sets of boots, and over the last 24 hours, she had gotten her jeans wet up to her hips, wading through floodwaters.
"I'm pleased, however, I haven't yet heard of any injuries or car crashes," she remarked.
Wood said Sunday morning she'd been watching the dam at the former Myron Cameron Sawmill, wondering if it was going to breech, but that later in the morning, the spillway door had blown off, and relieved pressure on the dam.
She said at about noon that she'd be meeting with county Superintendent of Public Works Jeff Tennyson, Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas and Thurman Town Highway Superintendent Patrick Wood to formulate recovery plans so town residents and local students can get to work this next week.
Kim Ladd of Valley Road couldn't get to her home Saturday night, so she sayed elsewhere. Her husband, who'd been at home through the storm, reported to her by phone that he was dealing with water bubbling up through the basement. Her son Kaleb had tried to hike into the house a half-mile or so, but turned around after seeing a deep gash in the road about 15 feet across.
"We've never, ever, ever, ever seen anything like this up her before -- it's just crazy," Ladd said.
At the bottom of Combs Road, where the bridge was swept away, floodwaters were still rushing through early Sunday, with churning water and rocks, residents reported.
LaFlure said he was busy not only assessing the extent of the damage through the upcounty region, primarily Thurman, but he was documenting it to request financial assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"People in northern Warren County are a hardy bunch," LaFlure said, noting the ways people were devising to help each other.
Wood said they may be hardy, but this destruction was unprecedented in recent history.
"People up here are experiencing a sense of shock," she said. "The old people in town are stunned -- they've never, never seen it this bad."