September 1, 2011

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Fed reps tour Irene damage in Greene County

Gillibrand, center, discusses the devastation in Catskill

CATSKILL – When US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took a first-hand look at the devastation from Hurricane Irene on Greene County, her facial expression told the whole story. She was shocked at the degree of flood damage. Gillibrand and Congressman Christopher Gibson visited flood ravaged Greene County Wednesday, to view first hand the damage and also to meet with concerned homeowners and business people, many of whom have been displaced in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Many sections of Greene remain isolated and without power.

Particularly hard hit were three villages Catskill, Hunter and Prattsville. The death toll from the storm in Greene County now stands at three.

The federal lawmakers pledged to help those who suffered flood damage cut through the red tape and get help to clean up and in many cases rebuild. Waters swelled by the storm ripped up roadways and washed away infrastructure.

For example there is the historic "Captain Kidd Inn" on West Main Street in Catskill which had its basement flooded and its kitchen washed away. The three-story, 17th century building was the site of the marriage of President Martin Van Buren and also was the one-time home of Sam Wilson, who's widely considered as the model for "Uncle Sam". A sign, now posted outside reads "Closed-Reopen?" The two owners were visited by the federal representatives as well as town officials and county legislators all who pledged their support.

Gillibrand said impacted residents will now have to fill out paperwork. “They’ve got to document their loss and get forms in so they can get the aid, but it was really important that FEMA was on the ground so they could actually see the damage personally and understand how significant it is,” she said.

Gibson believes any additional federal money needed for the state could come from reassigned federal funds. “I think we can get some money from the defense appropriations bill in terms of reprogramming,” he said. “I think that is just one area and there are other areas as well, but that’s why we have a disaster relief fund is for moments like this, it’s for America. We are going to rebuild.”

Simon Pagnani, who is eight, took in some of the damage along the Catskill Creek and said it looked like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Gibson said he was proud of the resilience and teamwork on displayed in the emergency response to the storm which he credited with saving lives. "We had counties helping counties, towns going to other towns that was the nature of this storm, it hit some harder than other but now we are all in this together.”

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