Friday, July 31, 2009


Heavy rain Wednesday night took a toll on southern Rensselaer County, washing out roads and at least one bridge, prompting some officials to hope for federal money to aid in their recovery.

At least six inches of rain fell Wednesday night on parts of southern Rensselaer and northern Columbia counties, according to the National Weather Service.

“We’re pretty devastated all over the community,” said Nassau Supervisor David Fleming, who is asking the federal government for disaster assistance along with neighboring Stephentown.

Fleming said 11 campers at the Kinyon’s Canyon Campground, off Route 66, were stranded on high ground overnight Wednesday before being rescued by the fire department. There, campers and vehicles on lower ground were flooded with water, and Fleming said he saw tents wrapped around trees at the campground. All were uninjured, he said.

But the town’s roads did not make it out unscathed.

“Many of our major roads have been impacted in a very severe way, well beyond the scope of our budget,” Fleming said.

The highway department’s annual budget is just under $150,000, he said, and “it’s possible that one of these roads could eat up that amount of money.”

Highway superintendent Fred McCagg said large culverts under some Nassau roads, including State Route 43, have washed out and are currently being replaced. Old Route 20 will also be closed a while, he said.

Workers are striving to make the town’s dirt roads — which comprise 34 of Nassau’s 64 miles of roadway — passable to motorists, but McCagg said there’s a lot of work to be done, and it can’t all happen at once.

“At this point, we’re trying to prioritize and work our way around town,” he said. “It’s going to be a long process.”

Meanwhile in neighboring Stephentown, Supervisor Thomas Sherman said the bridge on Route 22 over the Kinderhook Creek, a temporary one put up during construction, is completely unusable. Crews are working to repair it, he said, but it will take several days.

County Route 27 was also closed late Thursday, as was the intersection of Routes 43 and 66, he said.

“Our town roads are in much better shape,” Sherman said. “They’re passable, but you need to be in the center lane. Our runoffs took a beating.”

Republican county legislators representing Nassau and Stephentown expressed the support for disaster aid in a statement, and Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino said it’s a possibility.

“We’ve recommended to them to keep track of their damages in the event that the damage reached such a level that we can get a disaster declaration,” she said.

She and other officials praised emergency personnel for their hard work out and about Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Jimino noted that 30 homes had water pumped for their basements in Stephentown alone.

Other areas were affected as well: much of Columbia County, including Lebanon Valley Speedway, was under heavy water. At least two roads had to close in Schodack, and one in Sand Lake was narrowed to a single lane.

Getting roads back open quickly is important, Jimino said, so that emergency vehicles can get to where they are needed.

Officials also expressed their concern that any additional rain could easily worsen the matter.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned about any upcoming rain, because the ground is just completely saturated at this point,” Fleming said.

According to the National Weather Service, a flood warning is in effect for the entirety of Rensselaer County. Thunderstorms, some with heavy rain, are likely Friday afternoon.

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