Third 100-year flood hit in June 2006

By TOM KANE

UPPER DELAWARE REGION - On June 28, the region was hit with a 100-year storm and flood. It was the third in 18 months. A state of emergency was declared along the Delaware River Valley, specifically in Damascus and Honesdale in Pennsylvania, and in Narrowsburg, Callicoon, Hancock, Jeffersonville, Youngsville and Livingston Manor in New York.

Along the Lackawaxen River in Pennsylvania, residents that lived in Hawley, Rowland and Lackawaxen were hit hard, sustaining heavy damage and even losing their homes.

Residents of Youngsville and Jeffersonville had to be evacuated because of the flooding of the Callicoon Creek.

In Livingston Manor one house collapsed and a 15-year-old girl drowned as a result of flooding on the Willowemac and Cattail Creek. U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey and NY Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther visited the area following the storm.

In Honesdale, people voluntarily evacuated from eight streets. The courthouse command center in the basement was flooded for the second time in 18 months, and had to move its operation to the former Stourbridge School.

Residents of River Road in Callicoon and families in Waymart, PA had to be removed from harm’s way. Several main roads were closed to traffic. The Delaware Youth Center sustained damage for the second time in 12 months. This time, unlike during the former flood, the waters reached inside the building and ruined the wood floor.

A resident of Tammany Flats in Pennsylvania, who had refused to evacuate, had to be rescued from the raging river by National Park Service rangers.

Two organic farms in Sullivan County sustained serious damage to their crops and one lost a large quantity of topsoil to flood waters.

“I’ve lived here 40 years and this is by far the worst I have ever seen,” said Cochecton resident Vincent Annunziata.

The Army Corps of Engineers kept a close watch on the Prompton Dam at the head of the Lackawaxen River near Honesdale. The dam was constructed 30 years ago for flood control.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began the process of helping individuals and then municipalities. Slowly, the federal agency completed the process of reimbursing victims.

Role of reservoirs in the flooding

The seriousness of the flooding in the area was exacerbated by the failure to release water from the New York City and PPL’s reservoirs in advance of a storm to provide a void that could accommodate some of the flood waters.

Along the Lackawaxen, emotions reached such a height that the company, PPL Electrical Utilities, which operates the Lake Wallenpaupack Dam, was forced to form a taskforce of citizens, municipal officials and businesses to discuss the concerns having to do with releases.

New York City was roundly criticized by residents at two workshops on flooding held in November, which were organized by the Visioning Committee of the Upper Delaware River Corridor. Representatives of FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and the local county planning departments attended the workshops.

Through the DRBC, an interim agreement about reservoir releases was beginning to be formulated by the end of this year. Details of the agreement have yet to be announced.

The two previous 100-year floods occurred on September 18, 2004 and April 1, 2005.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Like many businesses in the area, Lander’s Campground at Skinners Falls, NY took a serious hit when the flood waters rose in June. (Click for larger version)