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Irene damaged Whiteface infrastructure

Repairs expected before winter

September 30, 2011
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

WILMINGTON - Flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Irene damaged critical snowmaking infrastructure at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center on Aug. 28.

Workers are currently repairing trails and culverts and repaving roads, according to Ted Blazer, president and CEO of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Blazer said Pump House 1, which draws water from the West Branch of the AuSable River to feed the mountain's snowmaking system, lost a transformer and a motor control, both of which have to be replaced.

Article Photos

A mess of wires remains after flooding of the AuSable River destroyed the transformer that powers Pump House 1 at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center. Work crews from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority expect to begin repairs following this weekend’s Oktoberfest.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)

"We don't see any hitches moving in toward the winter, but we still do have some work to do," he said.

General Manager Bruce McCulley said damage to Pump House 1 will cost about $250,000. During a tour of the damage Thursday afternoon, he explained that the river crested its banks and flooded the small building, washing away electrical wiring and leaving behind silt deposits.

"The water came around the building, and it tipped over our transformers," McCulley said. "It's never done that before."

According to McCulley, the mountain has four pump houses, but Pump House 1 is critical to the entire system because it's the source for the water that creates artificial snow for the entire operation.

Inside the building, McCulley said crews need to "de-water" the pumping pit. That, he said, requires removal of band screens that filter out slush and leaves before they reach the pump.

McCulley said about 3 feet of water flooded the pump house, leaving behind piles of silt that will need to be taken out by hand.

"Boy, there's a lot of it," he said. "And it's a labor-intensive job. We might be able to pump some of it out, but if we can't, we'll have to do it ourselves."

The building itself, however, remains intact. McCulley said it could have been a lot worse.

McCulley said work crews are rerouting both the primary and secondary power sources for Pump House 1 in case of future flooding. He expects that work to begin Monday, following this weekend's Oktoberfest celebration.

"We'll be digging the whole area up and putting new power lines in," McCulley said.

Flooding this spring also caused mild damage to the grounds surrounding Pump House 1, McCulley said. Repairs made over the summer were for naught, he added.

Elsewhere, McCulley said heavy rains from Irene washed tree limbs and rocks onto the ski lift on Kids Kampus.

"Those were areas that just washed out last spring and we had just finished cleaning up," he said.

Meanwhile, Blazer said rain and flooding also affected other ORDA venues, noting that summer revenues were down about $124,000 when compared to 2010; however, those numbers are up $157,000 from 2009 figures.

Blazer and McCulley stressed that damage to ORDA venues pales in comparison to the devastation to homes and businesses that occurred in places like Keene and AuSable Forks.

According to Blazer, ORDA was more focused on helping its neighbors in the aftermath of Irene, sending crews to assist in clean-up and recovery efforts.



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