to face the paradox head-on. The
is evil. Yet it’s also the only paper in the country that provides in its pages every day vivid, detailed coverage such as the below
from yesterday’s issue.
August 29, 2011
In Catskill Communities, Survivors Are Left With Little but Their Lives
By NOAH ROSENBERG and PETER APPLEBOME
PRATTSVILLE, N.Y.—It chewed up Moore’s Trailer Park, sweeping up homes and discarding them in devastating piles of wood, plastic, orphaned automobile wheels and broken children’s toys. It tore apart painstakingly maintained Victorians, their pastel-colored and gingerbread-style exteriors cracked and caved-in, their front lawns, porches and sidewalks replaced by muddy lagoons.
Even the town cemetery, where Prattsville’s founder, Zadock Pratt, was buried in 1871, was littered with fallen trees and cracked tombstones from Tropical Storm Irene’s wind and water as it ripped through the Catskills.
And then there were the businesses, like O’Hara’s service station, open since 1925. It had been run by Kory O’Hara’s family for five generations. On Sunday it simply vanished, swallowed by the Schoharie Creek, swollen to several times its usual size.
Asked where the business went, Mr. O’Hara, 34, slowly shook his head.
“In the reservoir,” he said.
“Everything’s gone,” he added. “My life is gone.”
It was the day after in Prattsville, and in Jewett, Maplecrest, Windham, and other normally placid Catskill communities where the storm’s devastation played out with some of its most ferocious malice about 140 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. There was no Internet, no telephone service and power only for those with their own generators. So under deceptively cheery blue skies, there was not much to do but to mourn, to begin cleaning out and to figure out what, if anything, would come next.
Mr. O’Hara was worried about more than just his business.
“Main Street, Prattsville, is a total loss at this point,” said Mr. O’Hara, who is in his fourth year as town supervisor. “We just don’t know where we’re headed. I don’t know if there’s anybody in the town of Prattsville who can answer that question.”
He said that the town is in the floodplain and that, as a result, “nobody can afford flood insurance.”
“We’ve lost a lot of businesses that employed a lot of people,” he added, “and there are a lot of people who aren’t going to be around here for a long time because their homes are gone.”
So it went throughout Greene County, fictional home of Rip Van Winkle, where 49,000 people are spread out over 658 square miles.
A small crowd gathered Monday afternoon where the main bridge used to be in Maplecrest, once home to the Sugar Maples Resort, a ghost of the Catskills’ past. On Monday, Maplecrest looked like a ghost version of the hamlet that existed just a day before.
There was no longer a bridge. The wheels of two cars, overturned and buried under debris, were partly visible. A barn was half in the river, whose banks were still pulsing with rust-colored water.
“I saw motorcycles and four-wheelers and oil tanks floating by,” Dan Shaul, 61, said.
Mr. Shaul, who is in a motorized wheelchair, lives just across the street from the bridge, on higher ground. “I just watched as everything got washed downhill,” he said.
Some of the mourning was for the dead.
In Maplecrest, Lorraine Osborn died trying to escape the rising water. A Greene County legislator, Jim Hitchcock, said Ms. Osborn, an elderly woman with a walker, was in her modular home when the water lifted it up. He said her husband, Bud, was in the garage trying to plan a way out for them and could not get back to her. Her body was recovered on Monday morning.
“She was a wonderful lady,” Mr. Hitchcock said. “She always spoke her mind, and we loved her for it.”
The living were trying to figure out the next step.
Anastasia Rikard, 22, sat on a chair in her backyard, or what was left of it, on Monday evening, surrounded by the few things she could salvage: a TV, a suitcase of some clothes, a box of liquor. Her 100-year-old yellow, blue and white Victorian home, which she shared with her father, a cat and a dog, toppled forward with her in it on Sunday morning. She said the house, which also served as her father’s law office, had begun filling up with water shortly after she dropped off her father, also a firefighter, at the Prattsville firehouse about 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Ms. Rikard said she had planned to leave town, but by the time she had changed her clothes, it was too late.
“I was in there when it went down,” she said. “It was really quick. It was really loud.”
On Monday, a moat of filthy water gathered around it. Ms. Rikard said that a cousin had caught a 12-inch bass in the front yard and that she had seen catfish swimming in the backyard.
“I had to climb out the window there,” Ms. Rikard said, pointing to a ladder leaning against a second-story window. She said she was rescued by boat hours after the house had toppled, because firefighters had had to wait until the water outside, on Route 23, subsided.
Asked what she and her father planned to do, Ms. Rikard was, for a few seconds, speechless.
“I don’t know,” she finally said, asking the same question and coming up with the same answer as most people here: “Try to pick up what we can and start over.”