As we continued to survey our damage and try to figure out where to begin, the first thing we are all told is don’t drink the water. Everyone was told to go to the Community Center where there was plenty of water for everyone and when we arrived there were rooms, halls and walls filled with water for everyone, which was available to all of us until we received word the water was now OK to use.
Next to visit us was Ben Hawkins, environmental engineer with the state Department of Enviromnmental Conservation. He informed us that the red tag on our home indicated we had oil in our basement and had to be cleaned up by the company that would be here soon to check the situation. Ben was a daily visitor keeping us well informed on how things would be done. He was very informative, kind and compassionate.
Next Ben introduced us to Roger Letendre, project manager of National Vacuum Corp. based in Queensbury. Roger told us his crew would remove all items in the basement, including our damaged oil barrel, which I might add had to be cut in pieces to be removed. Their equipment would suck the water and fuel oil out of our dirt floor which would take more than one time and they would pressure wash the walls. One of our first questions was cost and how would we be able to afford this costly procedure. Ben informed us right away that this was a declared disaster and all costs would be taken care of.
Can you imagine the relief we felt since we had already been informed from our insurance company that our homeowners policy covered nothing without flood insurance? What a lifesaver to all of us with oil barrels in our basements. Roger and his crew were phenominal. They went way above the call of duty and showed us so much kindness, compassion and understanding. Their office manager Jacqui was also here when her busy schedule allowed it, and she gave us direction on how to deal with any questions we had. She also informed us to contact her office giving us the number so we would be sent proof of removal of our oil barrels to qualify for any help offered us with the purchase of a new one.
This crew worked seven days a week from dawn to dusk and had to return to Queensbury each day, only to have to return here early the next morning. They were in town until every home had been taken care of on their list. Hats off to Ben and Roger and his crew for everything they did to help us in our time of need.
There are not enough words to describe the dedication and hard work, kindness and compassion the members of the AuSable Forks Fire Department under the direction of Chief Jason Whisher showed our residents during this very stressful ordeal. They were there to assist in the evacuation of all residents, making sure everyone was out and in a safe environment and assisting in the rescue for those that needed help. They worked tirelessly to pump out cellars for those who had no fuel oil in their basement, and stood by for anyone who needed their assistance throughout this nightmare. They were there to assist in any way they could when the meals were served to all of us in need.
We are so fortunate to have this awesome crew of dedicated members and of course their dedicated auxiliary members who were also there to assist when needed.
A big thank you also to our wonderful, dedicated, ambulance service who was available to everyone and offered their assistance to anyone in need.
Next to arrive with assistance was the Red Cross who visited every home to ask what they could do to help. They left cleanup boxes with mops, brooms, cleaning products, masks, mop pails, rubber gloves and boxes of paper towels on porches. What a help that was to everyone with all the water, mud and fuel oil we all had to deal with. They came door-to-door on a regular basis throughout this ordeal. We will always remember their kindness and compassion.
Paperwork arrived for FEMA and we were told to fill it out and return it to the town office, which we did, and right away we were called by the volunteers and given a phone number to call and have a phone interview to get the wheels turning for help from FEMA.
After my phone call, I was informed a FEMA Inspector would visit us the next day. He surveyed the damages, made his report and went on to the next house. In a timely manner we were given a case number and told there would be FEMA representatives set up in the town offices very soon to continue the process.
We all continued on this journey trying to stay strong and figure out the course of action to get our lives back to normal. We were also all notified that plans were underway to provide meals for all of us affected by the disaster. I will only say at this point that there are not enough words to describe the operation that was set up to assist all of us. Everyone involved in any way was invited to breakfast, lunch and dinner each day at the fire station. I will tell more about this later as there is so much to tell. What a lifesaver this was to those of us who had no way of cooking meals.
Next I had a visit from Supervisor Randy Douglass who brought a very nice gentleman and introduced me to him. He was John Cahalin, whom along with his wife Helen are co-founders of the Cahalin Family Foundation. She is a former resident of Keene. He expressed his sympathy to all of us involved in this disaster and handed me an envelope which I thanked him for along with his thoughtfulness in visiting.
After he left I found time to read the letter and learned this foundation provides assistance to persons affected by natural disasters and inside was a cash donation of $275 explaining what the foundation was all about and further explaining this program “Pass it Forward” will inspire individuals, who are capable of doing so, to provide assistance to their fellow neighbors.
It was a very emotional time for me and after many tears I was overwhelmed to think this kind gentleman and his wife not knowing any of us could find the time to visit each of us at this very difficult time and help each of us in such a caring manner. Each family with damages received this gift. He is on my list of “thank yous” since I had no idea of the donation till he had gone. That is one of the many kind gestures we received as a result of Irene.
As I end this part I want to thank my Editor Rich Rosentreter who has given me permission to add another installment so I can make all of my readers aware of just how much assistance was made available to all of us.
After visits to the North Country to view our losses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our representatives in Congress all pulled together to get us some much needed assistance. We are all so grateful for the help we received in so many areas. They will all be very fondly remembered by all of us.
Now mold sets in and we must hurry to get things under control. Our town officials informed everyone to put all debris from the storm and all damaged items in our homes in our yard and town highway employees would pick up everything free of charge. Another stress reliever for all of us.
Once again we are all so thankful for our supervisor and town officials and Highway Department and all the many ways they came to our assistance.
Next time I will focus on going to the Community Center and all agencies set up there and how each of them helped us, Christine Darrah and her committee setting up to help those in need of clothes and household items, the volunteers from all over including Albany coming on Labor Day to assist in any way they can, the National Guard arrives to help keep things under control, fire department from near and far arrive to help and more.
Anyone who has anything they would like to have included, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 647-8828. I welcome any input you may have.
Deanna Santor lives in AuSable Forks and writes the column “Around AuSable” for
the Lake Placid News