Two Herkimer County towns still reeling after Sunday afternoon's storm


FAIRFIELD, N.Y. (WKTV) - Ed Lynch lives on Oberle Road in Herkimer, just off of Route 28.

He says he's been bowling before and that's exactly the sound he uses to describe what he heard in his backyard Sunday afternoon.

"All of those boulders, when they came bowling down, it sounded like a bowling really," Lynch said. "It's all I can describe it as, it was like a bowling alley."

Now all of the boulders that were part of a bank behind his home are scattered all over what used to be his lawn.

Herkimer County Emergency Management Director Robert Vandawalker says Herkimer and the Town of Fairfield were hit hard by he storm that blew through Sunday afternoon around 2 p.m. He says that different measurements show between three and five inches of rain fell in just a 45 minute span.

"It came across the hills above Schuyler into the Town of Fairfield, and the Town of Herkimer and because everything flows downhill, of course we're seeing most of the damage in the tributaries and the streams down below," Vandawalker said.

Lynch lives next to one of those low-lying streams that is usually pretty dry.

Now, after several hours of cleaning Sunday and Monday, his garage is now clear of the water and three inches of mud left behind.

He says he wasn't home at the time the rain started.

"We were actually in our vehicle going down to Herkimer and we turned around but couldn't get back because Route 28 was washed out," Lynch said. "So we went over some of these back roads and made our way back down this way, and when we saw all of the water, we just just have to laugh because what else are you gonna' do, cry?"

Vandawalker says Lynch is definitely not alone, and the damage to roads throughout the two towns is extensive, including several sections of North Creek Road which on one side is in the Town of Herkimer and the other side is in the Town of Fairfield.

"The culvert that's washed out right here, at least five feet of water were going over the road here," Vandawalker said.

He says another stream along Route 169 in Fairfield, which is also usually dry, was between 25 and 35 feet high in one section.

"There were tense moments," he said. "There were some cases where we had to get the fire department to assist the people out of their homes."

Jim Scanlon lives on North Creek Road in Fairfield. He says when the heavy rain began, he went across the road to check on his neighbor.

"And my wife called and said 'stay over there, you're not coming back home,'" Scanlon said. "It's impossible to get across the road. I came out, and we went 'oh my God,' water was up to the shop."

He says he had ten feet of water surrounding his home.

Vandawalker says he's not sure where the money will come for the two towns' massive cleanup that will take quite a while to complete.

"We're already being told by town highway departments that this will completely do away with their yearly budget," Vandawalker said.

And where will the money come from for the cleanup?

Vandawalker says that he doesn't believe FEMA is an option.

"While we would surely be able to meet our threshold, the state also has the statewide threshold," he said. "But we were the only county to sustain damage yesterday because of that one cell that sat here."

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