Wading through roiling floodwaters, Warren County Sheriff's officers knock at a door of a home in the "Big Hollow" off Rte. 9 north of Lake George village in an effort to tell residents to evacuate their home. Authorities said a nearby resident of a trailer (at left in photo) refused to leave, al;though floodwaters were tearing away at her trailer's foundation and running through her home
Hurricane Irene moved through the area Sunday, with its heavy persistent rains causing millions of dollars of damage to properties and roadways, while its powerful wind felled trees that brought down power lines, plunging tens of thousands of people into darkness.
Authorities estimated that it could be days before power is restored in some locations.
Although Irene was downgraded Sunday to a tropical storm, it disrupted life as it made history.
The day-long rainfall — measured at nearly 4 inches — overwhelmed streams which jumped their banks, leaving the raging waters to tear up roadways and properties.
In Lake George Village, substantial property damage was due to floods was experienced by the Blue Moon Motel, Motel 6, Seven Dwarves Motel & Cabins, and the Woodbine Motel, among others.
Several homes in the “Big Hollow” settlement off Rte. 9 just north of Lake George Village were swallowed by the raging waters of nearby English Brook as the waterway changed its course due to waters a dozen feet or more higher than normal.
County sheriff’s deputies were seen wading through the stream’s roaring floodwaters at shortly after 7 p.m., knocking on doors telling people to leave their homes. Lake George firefighters, responding to an emergency call, attempted to evacuate a woman from a trailer in the Big Hollow, but she refused to leave, despite the water tearing away the foundation of her trailer and rushing into her home, firefighter Jim Barber said in frustration as he left the scene.
On the lake, the high winds whipped up high waves that tore up public and private docks, ripped boats from moorings, sunk some of them and sent others bobbing on the waters. At least one wayward boat floated up onto Million Dollar Beach Sunday afternoon.
Roadways were ripped up or flooded, causing them to be closed much of the day.
Mid-afternoon Sunday, English Brook north of downtown Lake George jumped its banks and turned the roadway into a river. The cascading waters flowed down Rte. 9 and flowed into the properties of Blue Moon Motel, Fran Cove Motel and Seven Dwarves Motel & Cabins.
Route 9 was closed Sunday afternoon and night between Warrensburg and Lake George due to the damage, which included tons of gravel and sand left in the roadway.
At Blue Moon, the floodwaters, bearing silt and gravel, swamped the pool and plunged units 1 through 14 into waist-high floodwaters.
Blue Moon owner Mike Stafford said his motel’s swimming pool was likely beyond salvaging, and would have to be replaced.
“I’m 61 years old, I’ve lived in Lake George my whole life, and I’ve never seen flooding even remotely ike this,” Stafford said. ”It’s just beyond belief.”
At Seven Dwarves Motel, the raging waters cascading down Rte. 9, ripped up the motel’s landscaping, filling the pool with silt and washed away the foundation of a cabin. The rushing waters tore up the property of nearby English Brook Storage, filling the storage units with water and silt.
Where English Brook runs under Rte. 9N just north of the village, raging floodwaters were so deep they ran over the bridge in their course to Lake George. Stafford estimated the water was 15 feet higher than normal.
“The devastation around here is unbelievable,” he said.
Stafford said that near the English Brook bridge, he saw a car stuck up to its doors in solid mud.
In downtown Lake George, an unnamed stream that carries runoff from Prospect Mountain and the Northway to Lake George was overwhelmed. Floodwaters 12 feet or more deeper than normal ran from the stream down Dieskau Street, swamping Motel 6 property— formerly The Villager Motel — with waist-high floodwaters in their lower motel units, submerging cabins on the property. Floodwaters there were up to seven feet deep, firefighters reported. The raging waters from this stream also flooded the Woodbine Motel, the Lemon Peel Lounge and McDonald’s Restaurant.
Power outages, which started at about 1 a.m. Monday became widespread beginning mid-afternoon, about when power was cut off to the entire village due to a transformer on Cooper Street exploding, Village deputy Mayor John Earl said.
“Nothing has ever happened like this before,” Earl said, describing the flooding and high winds.
Firefighters reported they’d heard that many boats were sunk on Lake George, perhaps a dozen or more.
Lake George Town Supervisor Frank McCoy reported that the new village public docks on the lake by Beach Road were ripped from shore by waves whipped up by the high winds.
He also reported that a section of Rte. 9 near Magic Forest caved in, and that high winds had downed both limbs and power lines on top of cars.
“Luckily, there was no loss of life here,” McCoy said. Earlier Sunday, Lake George firefighters were trapped inside a fire truck when they responded to a scene and live power lines were brought down atop the truck, McCoy reported. He said that National Grid workers arrived on the scene and freed the firefighters.
West Brook, which runs through the West Brook Environmental Park now under development, was flooded far beyond its banks, closing West Brook Road as well as Beach Road from Canada St. to Rte. 9L. As of Sunday night, damage to the developing park was not determined.
Behind Lake George High School, floodwaters were so deep on the basketball courts that teenagers swam from one basket to another and dunked the ball in floodwaters about eight feet deep. Behind the school, witnesses reported seeing a kayaker paddling in the impromptu pond and a Jetski cruising the waters there.
Road closures due to flooding or flood damage included Rte. 9 south of the village to Magic Forest, Rte 9N, Goggins Road, Sewell Street, Lake Avenue, and Rte. 9L in the vicinity of the Lake George-Queensbury town border.
By evening, tourists were sitting outside their motel units in downtown Lake George to watch the action in the streets, or they were wandering up Canada St. in darkness. Others swamped the Price Chopper and Stewart’s Shop convenience stores, two of only a handful of businesses that stayed open because they had backup power. The few stores remaining electrified included Giuseppe's Pizzeria, The Georgian Resort and the village firehouse.
At Giuseppe's, there was a line snaking out the open front door of tourists waiting to be served, and the entire Chiaravalle family was scurrying to meet the demand.
“We are happy we bought the generator several years ago so we can accommodate people in a situation like this,” Carmela Chiaravalle said.
At Lobster Pot Restaurant, a generator caused problems rather than drawing customers. Mid-evening, firefighters were called there when a malfunctioning generator ignited an exterior wall at the eatery.
Lake George firefighters responded to 16 calls or so, mostly due to flooding. A total of 29 firefighters responded to emergency calls Sunday.
Beyond Lake George, the entire region was effected by the tropical storm. an estimated 55,000 people were left without power in Warren, Washington, Essex and Saratoga counties.
Pummeled with fierce winds, communities along the east side of Lake George were left without without power.
Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec declared a state of emergency in the county at about 12:30 p.m. Other counties making such a declaration include Essex, Saratoga and Washington counties.
Flood and wind damage was also reported in Chestertown, Brant Lake, Thurman and Stony Creek. The Stony-Creek-Warrensburg Road was closed between Thousand Acres Ranch and Cameron Road, authorities reported.
In Warrensburg, highway workers were busy Sunday clearing downed trees and flood-ravaged roadways.
Warrensburg Highway Superintendent Ed Pennock reported that virtually every mountain stream was flooded with runoff. He said Alden Avenue was closed due to flooding and washouts in up to a dozen places, and a bridge near Viele Pond may be destroyed. Road culverts in the area near the Luzerne town line are also believed to be washed out, Pennock said late Sunday night.
“I’ve never seen water runoff like this,” Pennock said.
Local work crews were also busy removing trees and branches that fell down over roadways, including on Forest Lake Road and Green Mansions Road.