Diocesan Update - September 16, 2011
- additional messages from those affected by the storm
16 September 2011
At the Bishop’s suggestion, Mtr George-Hacker was asked to write an article about the impact of hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee on the Schoharie Valley area.
Unprecedented Disaster Visits the Schoharie Valley--An Opportunity to Be Christ's Church
by the Rev. Dr. Nina George-Hacker, FHC
Rector, St. Christopher's Church, Cobleskill NY
Today's bright sunshine and dry ground too easily lull one's attention from the widespread devastation that continues to afflict Schoharie County in upstate New York.
As the pounding rains of Hurricane Irene roared through our valley on August 28, 2011, rivers, streams, and creeks rapidly rose and began jumping their banks. Then, as water in the Schoharie Reservoir peaked beyond all previous flood-stage projections, a temporary restraining wall at the Gilboa Dam broke. Over 100,000 cubic feet of water per second cascaded into Schoharie and all the way to the Mohawk River.
Within hours, hundreds of homes, businesses, public buildings, churches, and farms were destroyed. Cows drowned, horses were swept away, bridges caved in, and roads were demolished. Fields ready for harvest were ruined. Cars, mobile homes, and sheds floated away and slammed into stores and houses. People in the mountains thought they were safe, until water burst out of the granite and raced downhill. Residents far from any flood plain had 6 feet of mud and water in their homes.
Then, just as this community began to organize for recovery, on September 7, the remnant of Tropical Storm Lee dumped another 6 to 8 inches of rain on Schoharie, Middleburgh, Central Bridge, Sloansville, Esperance, and Cobleskill. Most residents already in distress experienced a second round of flooding. And many who were spared during Irene now saw their homes swept off foundations, stores put of out of business, and farms drowned.
What those outside of this community may fail to realize is that such widespread devastation affects every level of human existence: As hundreds are homeless and dislocated, and jobs, services, and revenues are lost, we are facing a social and economic disaster. With rivers and creeks having rerouted their paths through places they never were before, and vast acreages of farming land ruined, we are approaching an ecological and agrarian disaster. In Schoharie County, 800 structures have been destroyed or condemned, 85% of which are residential; 11 bridges have been compromised, 5 of which must be completely rebuilt; sections of highways are still out in several places. As such, the very infrastructure of the Valley is in crisis.
Although local residents--and friends from all over America--have responded with enormous compassion and generosity, helping to shovel out homes, donating food, clothing, housing, and funds, the widespread emotional and spiritual distress affecting people here cannot be minimized.
This is one area where the Church can help. I think it's no coincidence that in the past ten days, two new families have shown up at St. Christopher's in Cobleskill. There may not be much we can do to rebuild homes and stores, and we may not have much money to share. But we can offer people what no other organization can: The love, mercy, and peace that is ours through Jesus Christ.
As Bishop Bill told the Susquehanna Deanery clergy on September 12, "Now is the time for people to see the Church at our best," as we practice the ministry of presence: We can hold the hand of a those grieving losses, give them a shoulder to cry on, surround them with a loving parish family, and assure them with the promise of the Gospel. Our mission is to spread hope throughout this devastation, reminding those in despair that God is with them, and we are there for them, too.
May the Lord use this time of crisis and loss to bring all who suffer into a deeper, closer, more vital relationship with Himself.
A common sight throughout Schoharie
A creek in Middleburgh...where normally there is none
A home knocked off its foundation