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Herkimer County Emergency Operations Center ready to respond

By GARY LIBERATORE

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Ten days after the major flooding occurred in Herkimer County, a room inside the County's 911 Center is still quite packed with disaster responders.

Herkimer County Emergency Management Agency Director Bob Vandawalker says that room is called the Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, and he says it will be well staffed for a while.

"There's still a lot of work to do, this is an ongoing process," Vandawalker said. "This is just a place where we filter out all the requests from the local agencies from the DPW to the villages, Fire Department and the individuals. Everything gets filtered through here."

Vandawalker says the damage reports are still keep coming in. He says on Sunday it was learned a portion of the Village of Herkimer's water line was exposed. It had been covered by nine feet of soil but was unearthed on Sunday.

"So the Forest Rangers and Conservation Police volunteered to walk the entire 17 miles of line to identify any problems and that happened yesterday," Vandawalker said.

With more rain possible over the next few days, Vandawalker says he is always in close contact with the National Weather Service out of Albany.

"The sheer number of days that we have seen storms and rain, they're using terms like unprecedented," he said. "So that's the showing that moisture pulling off the gulf, which we thought was going to be ending last week, is still continuing."

Within the EOC, there is personnel from just about every state, local and not for profit agency involved in a disaster response.

Herkimer County Sheriff Christopher Farber is among those that have spent countless hours in the EOC the past ten days and will continue to do so until things are somewhat back to normal in the county.

"The emergency response part is over, now it's determining what's out there, and every day we find something else out there that needs attention," Sheriff Farber said. "Whether it's a resident or a municipality , there's things out there people haven't discovered yet. This will be going on for quite a while."

There has even been someone from the governor's office in the EOC, and Vandawalker says the governor himself has been there twice and continues to help as much as he can,

"Just as an example, last night, when they expected the rain, he deployed the National Guard back, not just for Herkimer County but for the surrounding area if needed, as well as high axle vehicles to get through deep water," Vandawalker said. "And he also deployed Task Force II out of Albany, which is the swift water rescue team. They're still here, they're still waiting because we are expecting more storms."

Vandawalker says some of the cleanup in many parts has still yet to be begin.

"We still have a very long list of roads that are closed, we still have four state highways that are closed, actually five this morning with the rain last night, and some are going to be long term closures," he said. "We're tracking damaged homes, we're tracking vehicles, abandoned vehicles, washed out vehicles. Today we're starting to identify and get coordinates on propane tanks and fuel tanks that are in rivers and fields so we can start the removal process.

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