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In Keene: Bridges out, roads closed, homes evacuated

August 29, 2011
By MARTHA ALLEN - Special to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise

KEENE VALLEY - The town of Keene is in trouble. Rain was steady Sunday since 4 a.m., and by noon, flooding was rampant.

By Sunday afternoon, the Keene Public Library had serious structural damage, and the Keene fire hall lost at least its back wall to flooding by the East Branch of the AuSable River.

Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish went further, saying the Keene fire station had been swept away by the floodwaters.

Article Photos

John’s Brook crests over the top of a state Route 73 bridge in Keene Valley Sunday afternoon.
(Photo — Martha Allen)

"It's been washed away," Jaquish said Sunday night.

Water rushed down state Route 73 Sunday afternoon, surrounding the Keene post office and local businesses Dartbrook Rustic Goods, the ADK Cafe and the former Elm Tree Inn across the street.

Keene Valley was sealed off - no one could get in or out.

Route 73 was closed between Keene and Keene Valley and the south end of Keene Valley.

In Keene Valley, Marcy Neville, a town board member, was taken from her home by air boat.

Residents all along Route 73 from Keene through Keene Valley are being evacuated by volunteer firefighters.

Former forest ranger Peter Fish's home was flooded on Hulls Falls Road, and the old bridge connecting Grist Mill Road and Hulls Falls Road was gone.

Residents of Airport Road were evacuated.

A little farther south is a section of town historically dubbed Frog Alley because it is in a flood plain. The river engulfed Keene Valley Video, an Internet provider, on the east side of Route 73, and the water ran right across the road to flood McDonough's Valley Hardware and the home of owners David and Paula McDonough on Mason Young Road.

"I have never seen it like this," George Jaques, a Keene Valley native, said as brown water raged closer and closer to his home on the banks of John's Brook where it meets the river. "We might have to go someplace else tonight." As he watched, water splashed against the John's Brook Bridge, running over it and across the road.

Justin O'Connor, a volunteer firefighter stationed at John's Brook Bridge, reported that higher up, John's Brook was filled with thick mud, which he feared was runoff from a landslide in Adrian's Acres - one which has been moving since spring and is now the largest in state history.

In informational lectures in Keene Valley last week, New York State Museum Geologist Andrew Kozlowski said snowmelt and rainfall in spring 2012 might further destabilize the 82-acre landslide in Adrian's Acres. It might not take that long.

O'Connor described a huge, uprooted pine tree that he saw carried by rushing water under the John's Brook Bridge, which "shot like it was fired from a cannon out the other side."

Traveling up Adirondack Street, it was apparent that John's Brook had damaged the abutment to the bridge that leads into Adrian's Acres, just beyond Split Rock. While this bridge is still in place, it is impossible to access.

O'Connor said that if this bridge goes, Keene Valley will lose its access to water supply.

Another bridge farther up Adrian's Acres was completely washed away, isolating residents in their homes and preventing others from returning.

Continuing south on Route 73, the Keene Valley Country Club was flooded, and Mountain Meadows Bed and Breakfast had been evacuated.

Entering St. Hubert's, the bridge on Route 73 was flooded and the newly repaired bridge on St. Hubert's Road had been destroyed.

By the south end of AuSable Road, which leads to the AuSable Club, at the confluence of Icy Brook and Roaring Brook, Route 73 was flooded and covered with rocks, branches and other river debris.

The roadside along Route 73 in St. Hubert's had been eroded away.

The Keene Valley Hostel, Roostercomb Inn and the AuSable Inn remained open, harboring displaced residents, hikers and travelers. The AuSable Inn continued to feed customers despite the fact that it was short-staffed.


Enterprise Staff Writer Chris Knight interviewed Donald Jaquish for this report.



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