Warwick declares emergency as heavy rains cause severe flooding throughout area

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    WARWICK-If we could publish the sound of the water cascading over Mill Pond dam and down Longhouse Creek in Bellevale, it would present a clearer picture of the force and volume of the combined waters from melting snow and relentless heavy rain that flooded much of this area by last Sunday, April 3. Within a short period of time, heavy rainfall, estimated by the National Weather Service to be as much as four inches, drenched Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties. The ground and drainage systems were unable to absorb the extraordinary volume of water as rivers and creeks overflowed their banks. On Saturday evening, April 2, Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Village Mayor Michael Newhard simultaneously declared an emergency. Warwick Police, Town and Village Department of Public Works (DPW) crews, volunteer firefighters and others worked tirelessly to protect public and private properties from the rising waters. "We declared the emergency because we wanted people to stay home and off the roads," said Sweeton. "Although it didn't become necessary, we had arranged for the Middle School to be used as a shelter in the event we had to evacuate residents." Sweeton explained that sadly, the storm was also an opportunity to test the town's emergency planning under actual circumstances. The details of a new emergency plan had only been finalized about six months ago. It had worked well in practice drills and now proved effective under actual conditions. "I don't think I can say enough about the extraordinary performance of the Warwick Fire Department, the police and DPW crews, " said Newhard. "How lucky we are to have them." Newhard reported that Forester Avenue had to be closed and that the cellars of some buildings and shops between Main Street and Wawayanda Creek as well as several homes on Orchard Street had been flooded. Crews from Orange and Rockland (O&R) Utilities Co. had also shut down electrical power and gas wherever it posed a danger. During the emergency, the Warwick Police Dispatch served as a control center. "We had an unbelievable amount of calls, perhaps three or four times what we normally receive," said Police Chief Thomas McGovern Jr., who reported that, in addition, eight cars had driven off the road and were submerged. "Fortunately there were no serious injuries. But, at the same time, to make things even more difficult, we and the Fire Department had to deal with a home on fire." There was heavier flooding reported in the low lands of Pine Island and Florida. "Just about all of Pine Island is under water," said Town of Warwick Councilman Leonard DeBuck, a resident of that area. The Warwick Supervisor and Council plan to apply for emergency Federal and State aid. To help support their claim, private property and business owners who suffered losses are asked to call the supervisor's office at 986-1120 ext. 240 with an approximate dollar estimate of their damages.