Flooding leaves businesses swimming upstream

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    WARWICK-Victor Sirelson was planning to borrow, rent or purchase a rubber raft to salvage whatever he could from the flooded cellar of his shop on Main Street in the Village of Warwick. "I can't even walk down there without waders," he said. "The water is about four feet deep." Sirelson had recently closed the gift shop, SAMAYA, but like his neighbors, he and his wife, Lia, had used the cellar to store merchandise and equipment, which they plan to use in another venture. By last Sunday, April 3, relentless heavy rainfall, estimated by the National Weather Service to be as much as four inches, had flooded areas of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties. Just the night before, Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Village Mayor Michael Newhard had simultaneously declared an emergency as Wawayanda Creek, which runs parallel to Main Street, overflowed its banks. Shops and buildings situated closest to Railroad Avenue, on the east side of Main Street, suffered the most damage. Rising water from the Creek flowed directly and freely into their basements. "We rented a couple of U-Haul trucks," said Mary Beth Schlichting, owner of Frazzleberries gift shop. "And with the help of some generous neighbors and friends, we managed to save most of the merchandise stored in the cellar by taking it to our house." Next door, Michael McDermott, owner of The Bookstore, had measured 28 inches of water in his basement. He managed to salvage some of his merchandise before water levels reached that height but even the slightest soaking rendered his books totally destroyed. In addition to the actual damage, Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R) had cut off all electrical power. "We were effectively out of business for the weekend," said Schlichting, "and as long as we are out of power this week, we're not going to register any sales." Several other businesses had posted "Closed due to flooding" signs. Owners were hopeful the Wawayanda would return to a normal level before additional rain, forecast for the end of the week, arrived. Because most shopkeepers in that part of town and even their landlords do not carry flood insurance, the burden of replacing damaged merchandise and equipment would rest with the merchants. "It will take a long time for this water to leave," said Warwick Town Councilman Leonard DeBuck. "I can see the snow that still has to melt on the mountains in Vernon." As a longtime resident and business owner in Pine Island, DeBuck believes this is the worst flooding in that area since 1983. "Pine Island is drowning," he said. DeBuck is the owner of DeBuck Sod Farm and Scenic Farms Golf Course. Both were under water. Just like the merchants in the Village of Warwick who were without electrical power, sod farmers in Pine Island were out of business because they had no product to sell, even when it was in most demand. "People need sod right now," said DeBuck, "And if I can't supply it, they will go elsewhere." The good news for Pine Island's onion and other farmers is that they haven't planted seed this early. The bad news, however, is that planting and the growing season in general will be delayed by at least four weeks. "I would agree that the expense and economic loss to this Town will be in the millions of dollars," said Supervisor Michael Sweeton. "We're applying for government aid and I urge everyone to help us by calling my office with an estimate of their loss." The Warwick Town supervisor can be reached at 986- 1120 ext. 240.