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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2011

Gallupville community, cut off by Irene, pulls together

By Michael Koff

GALLUPVILLE –– With the major routes to Gallupville cut off by damage from tropical storm Irene, residents felt isolated from outside help but pulled together to help each other.

“It was a tight community effort,” said Peter Departolo, pastor of the Gallupville Lutheran Church, describing the way residents were coming together to clean up the mess left by Irene.

“There were no sheriffs or cops in the area, they were MIA, no communications,” said Jeff Vogel, a Gallupville resident and Berne-Knox-Westerlo athletic coach. “The only saving grace was the fire department.”

“Factory Street was washed out, and Route 443 to Berne was washed out and was not passable,” said Keith Cross, the second assistant chief of the Gallupville Fire Department. The department started preparing for Irene two days before the storm hit and by Tuesday had been on the job for three days straight.

“We were here if they needed us,” said Cross. The Gallupville Fire Department lost count of how many pump-outs that it was asked to do, but Cross said the volunteers are happy to help.

Six area bridges were washed out by the storm, including one on Sholtes Road; parts of Sholtes Road were left on Route 443 a couple of miles away.

“Water came up to the lowest point and swept over to the creek across the way,” said a New York Department Of Transportation worker who was examining the damage on Route 443 Tuesday afternoon.

“Four miles of road, gone in an hour,” said Vogel of route 443.

“Fox Creek went down the middle of Factory Street and no one was expecting it,” he said. Many uprooted trees made a ditch that ended at a small church on Factory Street.

“I saw buckets, trash, trees, even a couple trailers come floating down the flood,” said one Gallupville resident.

Spirits were not broken by what Irene dished out to Gallupville. Pastor Departolo and Red Cross coordinator Steve Lammers set up an emergency shelter at the Gallupville Lutheran Church since a lot of other places either closed or didn’t have the resources to open.

The shelter opened right after the Sunday morning service when the storm hit. “About 50 people came to the shelter to stay away from the storm but, around early afternoon, many got displaced from their homes and came here,” said Departolo.

Many volunteers came to the shelter to make meals for those who were displaced from their homes. The shelter was still open on Tuesday afternoon..

“We had between 55 and 85 people who came for meals; we even gave out snacks to the workers, like National Grid, DOT and residents,” said Departolo. A number of elderly residents helped make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for those working on clean up. Departolo believes the clean up will take years and that some of the residents will move away.

“God works in mysterious ways,” the pastor concluded, “but I’m thankful we are all OK.”

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