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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Penn Yan digs out from flood devastation

  • Even for a man who is used to fixing things, Tuesday night's flooding caused so much damage, he's not sure there is a fix.
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    • State of emergency in effect

      A state of emergency remains in effect for the areas in Yates County damaged by Tuesday night’s storm, Sheriff Ronald G. Spike said Wednesday evening.
      Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an offi...

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      State of emergency in effect

      A state of emergency remains in effect for the areas in Yates County damaged by Tuesday night’s storm, Sheriff Ronald G. Spike said Wednesday evening.

      Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an official State of Emergency Tuesday afternoon, making the area eligible for state and federal relief.

      The storm, which rolled in around 8:54 p.m., dumped five to seven inches of rain in parts of Yates County, damaging homes and business and leaving many roads impassable.

      Roads that remained closed in the village as of Wednesday evening include sections of Elm Street, Seneca Street, Basin Street and Champlain Avenue, Spike said.

      Several town roads and one county road - Guyanoga Valley - are also closed.

      Also Wednesday evening, cleanup crews were tearing down the former Owls Nest Community Center, which partially collapsed near the buckled parking lot on Basin Street.

      A boating advisory for Keuka Lake is in effect as the outlet and lake are still full of debris, Spike said.

      A shelter will remain open at Penn Yan Academy for residents forced to evacuate from their homes. The Penn Yan School District will remain closed today.

      Officials are keeping an eye on the forecast, which predicts storms for tonight and Friday.

  • PENN YAN | Even for a man who is used to fixing things, Tuesday night’s flooding caused so much damage, he’s not sure there is a fix.
    Doug Marchionda Sr. struggled to maintain composure as he talked about the devastation on Champlin Avenue where his trucking and excavation business has been headquartered for 48 years.
    Marchionda and his wife, Penne, were at their son’s house Tuesday evening on Elm Street working to help prevent flood damage there, when a friend called at about 11:30 p.m. to alert them that flood waters were threatening their business. Within a matter of minutes, several feet of muddy, swirling water rose out of Jacob’s Brook with enough force to shift massive trailers — at least one landed in the creek — and devastate their business and the group of homes on their street.
    “Forty-eight years. We’re done,” he declared, later saying that every one of his trucks was damaged by flood water and mud. One new pick-up doesn’t even have 20 miles on it, he said.
    Beyond the trucks and equipment outside, Marchionda doesn’t even want to think about the tools, supplies and equipment inside his business.
    “Nobody has a way to fix this,” said the elder Marchionda as his son, Doug Jr., used heavy equipment to muscle one of the trailers away from the creekbed.
    “This did not go well,” he said, shaking his head. Nearby, his young grandson, Dougie Flynn, scraped a shovel full of mud across the driveway to the family business.
    When a storm dumped at least five inches of rain Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning on northwestern Yates County and Penn Yan, it quickly clogged ditches and culverts, eroded roads and flooded fields. Seeking lower elevation, the water passed into Penn Yan, carrying trees and other debris. Once the bridges over Jacob’s Brook, which runs parallel to Main Street through most of the village, and Sucker Brook, which passes closer to Penn Yan Academy and under Elm Street, were blocked, the surrounding neighborhoods were at its mercy.
    A large grain tanker swept down Champlin Street and headed directly toward Marchionda as he drove a backhoe toward his doomed business. From there, things would only get worse.
    Wednesday, John Pallar, owner of the popular Wagner Restaurant, stood in slimey mud as he surveyed the damage around his restaurant and a rental home he owns on Champlin Avenue.
    There wasn’t much to say except, “I don’t know,” when he was asked, “Where do you start?”
    Across Champlin Avenue, Jessi Turner recalled when she and her four children were plucked from the porch roof of their home.
    Page 2 of 4 - “I didn’t believe Grandpa when he came over and said ‘Jessi, the house is flooding.’ I looked out my bedroom window and said, oh, right!”
    The family scrambled down one set of stairs and up another to get to a window leading to the porch roof, where they were rescued by Penn Yan and Dundee Fire Department rescuers.
    Turner and her children will be staying with her sister in Dundee while they look for another place to live. She says they lost everything, but she thinks they will be able to move back into the rental home eventually.
    Penn Yan Fire Chief Jeff Housel said Dundee and Penn Yan rescuers accessed another house on Champlin Avenue by boat from Benham Street. To get to the stranded family, they had to cut through exterior and interior walls.
    Robert Hawley, another Champlin Avenue resident, said the first indication he had that there was trouble was when he heard his bicycle fall over. He looked out his bedroom window and saw the rapidly rising water, woke his family and quickly moved one of the family cars to Elm Street. By the time he returned from less than half a block away, the water was higher than his waist. The Hawley family may be one of the few in the area who have flood insurance.
    The nearby Sampson Theatre, which is full of sets for local community and school productions, was flooded, damaging interior space and seating, and at least one trailer full of costumes owned by the Pennsylvania Yankee Theatre Company was submerged. Peg Patterson, general manager, said they hadn’t had a chance to get to the large trailer yet, but with the mud on its roof, she’s sure significant damage has been done.
    Main Street businesses were not spared.
    At Long’s Cards & Books, a basement full of new office furniture, paper — an order of 200 cases had just arrived — books and more was rapidly filling a three-ton dumpster in the back parking lot. Gloria Long said the family didn’t suspect any problems until they got the call that school was closed early this morning.
    Within minutes, Jim Long was headed to the store, where he found the flooded basement. Then, it didn’t take long for friends of the couple’s sons to call and offer to help with the clean-up.
    “We’ve got half of the lacrosse team here,” Gloria Long said.
    On the next block, Donna Neal, owner of Angel’s Restaurant, smiled through her distress as she described finding her basement full of muddy water. Her five freezers and a walk-in cooler were fully stocked with food when they were submerged. She’s sure she lost everything in the basement, and she’s worried there might be some structural damage to the building, something that will keep her out of business for an undetermined time.
    Page 3 of 4 - “For 35 years, this has been my whole life. I never dreamed anything like this could happen,” she said. Neal, who has always been one to offer a hand to someone down on their luck, now might need a little community support herself.
    Carrie and Sean Ahearn of the Penn Yan Diner were alerted by their security company that their back door had been opened in the middle of the night. Sean headed for the diner and was stunned to see standing water two feet deep on East Elm Street. The Ahearns have only owned the diner for two years, and like most businesses in Penn Yan, they do not carry flood insurance.
    Carrie Ahearn was working with 30 Keuka College students and her own children and their friends to clear out all the ruined foodstuffs and equipment when Congressman Tom Reed stopped by to survey the damage Wednesday afternoon. He assured her that FEMA personnel have been notified and disaster relief funding is being arranged.
    Next door in the Masonic Building, Pastor Sandi Perl of The Living Well, the relief agency formed by local churches when the Red Cross closed its Penn Yan office, says they got a lot of mud but are really not that bad off. They had already set up a relief station at Community Bank for all the residents and for the cleanup workers and the many Penn Yan Academy students who have volunteered to help.
    Nathan Baker of Finger Lakes Entertainment also feels very fortunate. His only loss has been one computer. The FLE studio next to the Living Well escaped the worst of the mud, but the drying out will take some time.
    Carrie said when neighbor and fellow restaurant owner John Pallar opened the front door of the Wagner, about three feet of water came pouring out. Pallar's van parked behind the Wagner was also destroyed when the grain tank trailer belonging to Lakeview Organic Grain floated away from Marchionda trucking. According to Marchionda, the empty tanker followed the course of Champlin Avenue, turned right and went through the alley behind the Sampson Theatre, and settled along with several boats behind the Wagner.
    The damage was not contained to downtown Penn Yan.
    On North Avenue, Herb Carpenter was shaken by the damage to the house and property he has spent years making into a beautiful home. As he tried to dislodge logs and brush from the wheels of his pickup that had been carried off his driveway, he confessed to being close to tears. As throughout the town, neighbors from up the street quickly offered their help.
    Dave Head of Maple Avenue had his flooded vehicles towed away, but was grateful his house was largely spared. Pat Yarborough of Indian Pines kept good spirits despite the fact her vehicles can't even be towed away. The water that overflowed from a nearby stream chewed her driveway into a gulch, eroded the earth from the foundation of her house, and tore off her porch, which now rests with tons of gravel on the beach of Keuka Lake.
    Page 4 of 4 - Throughout the scene of destruction, however, were examples of people reaching out to help, from high school kids hefting soggy cases of paper out of the Longs’ basement to the Keuka College kids helping clean up at the Penn Yan Diner and volunteer firefighters pumping out hundreds of basements.

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