Editor’s note: Angie Cook lives in Keene Valley, NY, and her house was damaged by Hurricane Irene in August, 2011. This is the third in a three-part series in which Angie will share her story of the storm and its aftermath.
There was no evacuation plan. There was no instruction like, “if a siren goes off, you need to evacuate.” We didn’t know who was going to watch the river and let us know when things were bad.
Most of the houses in our area were surrounded and hit pretty hard. But they had a more solid foundation. Ours was a lot lower than a lot of the others, and what really made it hard for us was the age of our house.
We were standing at the house that first morning and literally within minutes people are driving up and are coming up to our house. I’m frozen. My kids are running around, my daughter is really sad and in tears, saying “Mommy, our house” and my son is just like, “whoa, this is so crazy.” And we literally just had friend after friend after friend show up at our house – and people I don’t even know were in our house. I couldn’t do anything. I just walked around totally stunned.
We probably had like 30 friends just buzzing around our house like bees. Outside removing debris, and inside taking our furniture and stuff out. And there were people there who I had never met before, and all I could do was say, “Hi, I’m Angie, thank you for helping me.”
The people that have come together after what has happened is mind-blowing. People from our past – high school, college, growing up and grade school – have come together to support us. And our friend Brian and his construction company – the amount of time and money he put into us and our house is unbelievable. We just sit in our house now, look around us, and love it. We are very very thankful. There are people around us who have not had the same experience.
What did “tropical storm season” or “hurricane season” mean to you before Irene? How has this changed?
That’s normally not even in my thoughts. I’m thinking about spring flooding, ice jams – but since we didn’t really have a winter, we didn’t have to worry about that.
Do you worry about being affected by extreme weather again?
Of course. You know, my brain says: they did some excavation at the bridge and fixed it, and we’re higher now, and how often do we get hit by rains like that? Logically thinking, the chances are small. But when my heart’s talking, I have nightmares often about flooding, my kids worry about it. Are we going to sleep the next time there’s a hurricane? Probably not.
Now I’m thinking to myself, how do I design our landscaping? We did design the house so its now 2 to 3 feet higher than it was, so if it gets hit by flood again, the lower floor is a lot higher. How do we design the landscaping so that, if it floods again, it slows it down or defers it another way? We have flood insurance now, which we didn’t have before, because we didn’t even live on a river.
What has this experience shown you about how your area is being affected by the changing planet?
Two 500-year floods within 3 months. Rains that are so heavy we’ve had land slumps here, where other people have lost their houses. Because of all the rains, we have land slumping down the mountain like butter. Geologically, land slumping is a pretty normal thing, but that’s not something we’ve seen around here. It’s certainly well correlated to the fact that there was a lot of rain. Our life was completely stopped with Irene. One day we’re making salsa, the next day we’re picking up the pieces of our life, literally.
Angie Cook is Philanthropy Coordinator and Trip Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondacks Chapter Office in New York. Angie Cook lives in Keene Valley, NY, and her house was damaged by Hurricane Irene in August, 2011. This is the second in a three-part series in which Angie will share her story of the storm and its aftermath.
Photos courtesy of Angie Cook.
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