Eyewitness report: A ‘total disaster’ (update)

Updated at 12:26 p.m.: Susan Peters of Middleburgh Teachers Association tweets that up to 65 inches of water stands in the Middleburgh High School cafeteria. The technology classrooms are inundated and the gym floor is ruined.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the thousands still impacted by Hurricane Irene. That link is to the Daily Gazette which has some amazing photos and talks about the Mohawk Valley. Here’s another link that focuses on the Catskills. Damage is so widespread. It puts my petty concerns about being without power for almost 12 hours and having to deal with a large limb and squashed tomato and corn plants into perspective.

The eyewitness report via text comes from Martin Messner, Schoharie Teachers Association president, whose family is safe. Phones were out, but he texted this information earlier (when I had no power):

It’s a total disaster. Without power or Internet. live on top of a huge hill so we’re fine. However the towns of Middleburgh and Schoharie got hit with massive damage. We are very concerned about how many homes were lost. We expect to start school year with homeless kids and families struggling because few have flood insurance.”

Messner said communication is extremely poor as “the local phone company is gone.” He is still getting reports of members who have lost homes. Yesterday the National Guard prevented anyone from going into town.

This morning Messner went into town and called from Main Street.

Just one of the homes damaged along Main Street in Schoharie

“The buildings are here but everything inside them is destroyed. Some buildings the water was up to the second floor.”

The cell service is sketchy. I hang onto every word.

“There’s no gas station anymore, no grocery store. … There was a propane spill. So many roads are out.”

I ask what can people do?

“I don’t have answers to that yet,” Messner says. “I think it’s worse in Middleburgh. That high school was damaged in the flood of 1996 and this is much worse. I can’t imagine school will open next week there.”

I tell him NYSUT will be soliciting donations to its Disaster Relief Fund.

“Of course, NYSUT is always there for its members, but Betsy, our tax base is gone. Every business on Main Street! I can’t imagine when it will reopen. This is a small community. Homes are gone. People have no homes so they will have to move out until they can rebuild,” Messner said.

The home of a retired Schoharie TA member as the flood waters recede.

The Schoharie TA is extremely active in the community and Messner said he is (pardon the pun) flooded with calls from members who want to know what they can do. Is it more than coincidence that the NYSUT website features union members building communities?

Folks, will update what we can, but in the meantime, keep the victims of the flooding in your thoughts.

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