Numerous people remained stranded Monday in Greene County, New York, after torrential rains from Hurricane Irene washed out roads and bridges, flooded homes and businesses and left the town largely cut off, according to government officials and residents.
Twenty-three people stranded in one Prattsville, New York, house that was cut off when all the bridges around it crumbled were awaiting rescue Monday, while more than 100 others sheltering at a hilltop Christian center and a hotel were unsure when they might get out.
“We’re all stranded here. There’s no way out,” said Melissa Post, who was staying at the Huntersfield Christian Training Center with about 60 other people.
Authorities were preparing to go house to house in an effort to account for residents who had yet to be rescued, said County Administrator Shaun Groden.
“There could be hundreds of people stranded,” Groden said. “We don’t know.”
Emergency workers rescued 87 people from the Prattsville area on Sunday, including 25 people who were stranded at a motel for hours after 70 mph wind gusts grounded aircraft.
The area flooded when Schoharie Creek rose more than 15 feet in less than 12 hours and intense rainfall shedding off the Catskills sent a volume of water greater than that of Niagara Falls — both the American and Canadian sides — crashing through town, Groden said.
Members of seven families who had taken refuge in a vacation home that became cut off when bridges surrounding it succumbed to raging floodwaters were standing by Monday for rescue by state police who flew in a helicopter, said Dennis Michalski of the New York State Office of Emergency Management.
Crews had tried to rescue the people by airboat Sunday night, but they couldn’t reach them because of the raging waters, Michelski said.
It was unclear why authorities were holding off on evacuating the families, which include two pregnant women, seven toddlers and three infants.
Post said she didn’t have much hope for immediate evacuation.
“We’re pretty much stuck here,” she said, adding that bridges leading out of town were either washed out or damaged and that no one had suggested an air evacuation might be in the offing.
She said her home was filled with mud, fuel oil and other materials, but she was able to rescue her dog, which she had left on a second floor.
“Our town is devastated. We’ve lost all our houses. We’ve lost our jobs. We’ve lost everything,” she said.
She and other evacuees were subsisting on water pumped by a generator and food donated by the local grocery store, which flooded, she said.
Elsie Stuppert, an employee of the Hideaway Hotel in Prattsville, said the situation is dire.
“People can’t go home. They have nothing, floors all mud, car on top of the deck. They’ve lost everything,” she said.
The hotel is sheltering about 35 or 40 people, and is also serving as a makeshift command post.
The town was filled with vacationers, as well as people who headed to vacation homes in the area in an effort to heed warnings to evacuate parts of New York that forecasters had expected to bear the brunt of Irene’s impact, said George Wilson, youth leader at the Christian center.
“They had come up to escape the storm only to find its worst here,” he said.