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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 1, 2011

Acting highway super says
Guilderland “got lucky” with little damage

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The town fared better than many surrounding municipalities during Tropical Storm Irene, but emergency crews still worked around the clock in Guilderland to keep residents safe.

David Dodge, chief of the Guilderland Center Fire Department, said 80 storm-related calls came in to his department, starting Sunday morning.

“A vast majority of the calls were for pump-outs and related emergencies,” said Dodge. His department did not handle any structural collapses, but did assist in two water rescues. One such rescue involved helping the Westmere department by bringing a boat out to a house on Johnston Road where a couple was trapped due to rising water from the Normans Kill.

The Guilderland Center Fire Department also helped the Slingerlands, New Salem, and North Bethlehem departments with the water rescue of two people who were trapped in their car and then swam to find a tree for safety, Dodge said.

“The number of calls was on the high end of our response records, and we worked very diligently for 48 hours to keep up — it was non-stop,” said Dodge.

The Guilderland Police Department responded to an “unintentional death” in McKownville earlier in the week; a woman went down to her basement to check on the flooding and fell. The police said it had not yet been determined whether the death was storm related.

The town’s highway department also worked non-stop, according to acting Superintendent Steven Oliver.

“We started up at 6 a.m. and had crews going until 11 p.m. on Sunday,” said Oliver. He said the department had crews out with chain saws and barricades, watching for flooding and downed wires.

“At one point, we had 20 roads closed, but by the time we stopped at 11:30, we were down to six roads closed,” Oliver said on Wednesday. One closure was due to flooding, and the rest were the result of downed electrical wires and telephone poles.

As of Wednesday, Henessey Road and Lower Grant Hill Road were still closed to traffic; the railroad tracks on Henessey Road were washed out, and poles and wires on Grant Hill Road were still being restored.

“The railroad crews are trying to put the rails back together to keep the water off of Henessey Road, and, until then, we can’t quite see what we need to do there,” said Oliver.

He said the whole area was declared a state of emergency, so the Federal Emergency Management Agency will come in and provide damage estimates and eventually, some monetary reimbursement. (See related story.)

“We were actually very lucky here in Guilderland; our roads fared very well, we have some shoulder work to do, but that’s about it,” Oliver concluded. “I’ve been here 24 years and we had bridges overflowing that I’ve never even seen close to overflowing before, so we got lucky with so little damage.”

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