Tropical Storm Lee: Flood Stories from 2011
TROPICAL STORM LEE:FLOOD STORIES FROM 2011
Impact Is Still Felt
A decade has passed since the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee and the memory is still fresh for all who experienced it. WSKG wants to thank all who submitted to this project.
WSKG would especially like to thank Julie Nucci of Owego for gathering stories and images of her friends and neighbors who were hit by the flood of 2011.
Scroll through this digital scrapbook to share in these experiences.
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RADAR: 9/6-9/9/2011
Rainbands from Tropical Storm Lee set up across the Northeast, get caught in the topography of the region. A cold front collided with the storm, and it rained itself out over the region. The hills and valleys of the Southern Tier tend to hold storms in place allowing them to drop significant amounts of water, but not equally across the area making it difficult for forecasters.
FLOOD STORIES OF 2011:
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY
We're in Pieces
There's sadness in our towns.
Flooded houses, flooded stores.
Curbs of furniture, rugs, washing machines.
Harmful water, harmful air.
Electric - off;
And the awful mud.
Neighbors wear masks, rubber gloves, high boots.
Professional cleaners in astronaut clothes.
Needing to help.
Giving out drinking water, cleaning kits, dry ice for refrigerators.
Needing to see, to hear the stories -
She said that she painted her fingernails today - purple - it helps.
Routines, Plans, they're soaked too.
- K. Griffith
She remembers walking downstairs to do her morning yoga in front of the picture window—
• standing tall,
arms at her side,
• placing one foot on her inner thigh,
• arms descending to a horizontal line,
• balancing herself in front of a 200-year-old oak tree,
• coming out of position,
• bending down to pet her two cats,
• following their line of vision,
• seeing the river running across her front yard!
• bolting out the front door, back in,
• grabbing her car keys,
• racing the car up the street,
• walking back in her pajamas & flip-flops,
the neighborhood evacuated like in some sci-fi movie,
• a fireman shouting that he didn’t know anyone was still home,
that she couldn’t go back, that it was unsafe,
• how she kept walking,
• neighbors gathering,
a neighbor running up to her, tugging her arm You can’t,
another neighbor with how-many-cats-you-don’t-want-to-know
handing her a pet carrier,
• a fireman yelling OKAY, TEN MINUTES MAX!
• holding the carrier above her head,
• rescuing her cats,
• passing the carrier up the street from one set of hands to another above the manic river that hadn’t let loose in 70 years.
- Pamela Gay
A few of the things we experienced are below. If you would like me to record audio of any of it, I'd be happy to do that. I have a whole bunch of photos, too, if you are interested. It seems like this form will only let me submit one file at a time, so maybe I'll submit a couple separately.
My husband (Eric) and I had commuted to work together that Wednesday (September 7), and he called to say that our street had water and we needed to go. As we drove from Binghamton to Owego, the Susquehanna River was coming up along Route 17. In some places it didn't seem like there was much space between the water and the highway, and eventually it did come up onto the road. As we drove into Owego, there was a huge line of cars headed out of town--mostly Lockheed Martin employees--and that's when I knew this was really serious.
It didn't seem like we needed to evacuate on Wednesday, so we went to bed but didn't get much sleep. When we got up in the morning, Eric went out to see what the situation was. He came back in and said, "Oh my god, the yard is full of water." I thought he meant that there were a few inches of water in the low part of the back yard, but when I went out to look, there were several feet of water filling the low part of the yard, and it was creeping toward the house. Our next door neighbor had been awake in the night, and he had rescued our lawn furniture when he saw the water starting to come in.
Our friends had pooled their money together and bought us a canoe for our wedding. As the water filled so many of the streets in Owego, there were people stranded. Eric took the canoe and paddled a few people to the end of our street, which was high enough to avoid the water, and they were able to be picked up.
Our basement was getting full, and the river still hadn't crested, so we decided to go to our friends' house at the edge of town--their house was higher and near to an exit route. We moved our important documents to the second floor, grabbed our phones, and took off toward their house in the canoe. As we came to the intersection at the end of our street, I was blown away. The houses around the corner from us already had feet of water on their first floors. Eric paddled toward our friends' house, and I took photos of everything, feeling completely amazed at what was going on. Luckily there wasn't much of a current in our neighborhood.
Our basement filled up, but we were lucky that we didn't get water on our first floor. As the water went down over the next couple of days, we saw that one of our foundation walls--a stone wall in our old house--had collapsed. We also discovered that our neighbor's above-ground pool had floated into our yard, along with various other small debris and some unfortunate fish.
The outpouring of support and help that we experienced was amazing. Friends and family loaned us things like a pump, a jack post for the basement, money, and people power to get cleaned up. And people in town helped each other, too. We shared information and resources, and we got to know our neighbors a lot better.
It took a few days for the power to be restored, so Eric and I took turns staying home from work, just in case NYSEG showed up. One evening as I came home from work, it was getting dark, and I was trying figure out what we were going to do about dinner, since we had no lights and no refrigeration. I was tired and overwhelmed, and so was Eric. Soon after I got home, a Red Cross van pulled up and the man said, "Could you use a meal?" As we ate our supper out of a styrofoam container that evening, I was close to tears, so grateful that this stranger was able to provide us with a little bit of help to get us through the evening.
Our family has been living on Bradley Creek Road since 1979. The bridge down our road collapsed during the flood of 2011. Many of my photos were taken at the bridge--or what was left of it. At one point the heavy equipment that was there to help rebuild it collapsed and fell into the creek. Also, I took several pictures at the storage facility in Johnson City behind Wegmans where our daughter had been keeping her belongings after moving out of her apartment. Almost all of it was not salvageable.
I live in Vestal. It rained and rained and rained. The street was just….water. I was afraid to go to bed, so I stayed up and crocheted. At some point during the night the freestanding garage across the street fell into the creek when its foundation was undermined – it sounded like a tractor trailer was skidding sideways down the road outside the house, but it was so dark I couldn’t tell what was happening. At one point I went upstairs for something and realized that the globe light in the guestroom ceiling was full of water – when I called a contractor the next week to have it fixed, we discovered there was a leak in the ridge vent and the violent wind and sustained rain forced water into the attic. It followed the wiring and filled the light fixture. I love rain, but for about a year after this storm the sound of rain filled me with a real sense of fear and anxiety.
Our neighborhood was the only way out of Apalachin since Route 17 was flooded, so our sleepy lane-and-a-half wide road looked like 1 and 9 in New Jersey. At one point, the traffic was so congested the wait was up to an hour to leave the neighborhood -- a sherriff’s deputy ended up directing traffic at the intersection of Pierce Hill and Route 26 (it should take three minutes to get from my house to this point). My chihuahua sat in her little chair on our porch and just….watched cars go by. (photo attached, from 9/10/11)
The gas was out in our neighborhood because a gas main was exposed by the flooding (there was an Army Corps deuce and a half blocking that part of Main Street above the creek so that the undermining didn’t get worse) -- that meant I couldn't bake and drop stuff off at fire stations, which is what I would usually do when first responders are doing a full-time response to an emergency. So I posted on Facebook and asked who needed help: a friend's aunt in Johnson City was stripping carpet and furniture out of her flooded first floor, so I helped there, and then a friend out of state connected me with a local friend of hers who was assisting with cleanup at a funeral home right by the river in Binghamton (DeMunn Funeral Home on Conklin Ave). I got to meet someone new (we're still friends!) while we hosed off the funeral home's parking lot. I remember the funeral director saying that they always had to be open and ready. As I was leaving, the funeral director said to me, "You came to help and I don't even know your name." I told her I had no damage at my house and wanted to be useful. I went home through downtown Binghamton, and ended up stopped at a red light next to a fire truck from Seagirt, NJ (I think I have the right town). I'm a firefighter's daughter, so I rolled my window down and yelled thank you. The driver said, "Binghamton Fire came to help us after 9/11, and we remember. And you need help now."
A friend was scheduled to be married in Cutler Gardens, which were under water. They moved their wedding to the pavilion at the nursing home where she was a secretary, and I got in the giant line of traffic to attend. I brought my camera to get photos for the organization’s newsletter, and asked her who the real photographer was so I didn’t get in their way. “It’s just you,” she said, so I ended up being their wedding photographer.
ANDY G. FAGAN
SUE & JAKE VROMAN
Along with celebrating the 10th anniversary of TS Lee, we will also be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary on 9/10/21! As we prepared for our wedding, the rain kept coming….when our wedding day arrived, both our home and our wedding venue were flooded - we waded into waist deep water surrounding our home and our cars to retrieve our wedding clothes, and had NO IDEA where, or even if the wedding would take place… BUT WE WERE STILL BLESSED!! We were fortunate enough to be married at the long term care facility in which I worked, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony attended by many of the residents there and the friends and family who were able to attend. We were surrounded with love!!!
Beautiful, generous friends saved the day by not only propping me up and getting me through, but by baking our wedding cake/cupcakes, providing flowers, and being our photographer. The very best part of this amazing day was after the ceremony was over - the water had receded and we were able to spend our wedding night in our home! It was during this time, that we got the opportunity to meet and spend more time with our neighbors, who all pitched in together to help clean up and support each other. Seeing my brand new husband assist all our neighbors get their homes back together made my heart almost burst with pride! We learned so many valuable lessons! The only downside from this event was the lack of a honeymoon………….still way more positives than negatives!