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Hiker rescued from truck amid Keene Valley flooding

KEENE VALLEY — A hiker was rescued from his vehicle shortly after midnight Friday after he awoke to find the truck he’d been sleeping in was surrounded by water.

The rescue came as high winds and rising water levels rocked North Country infrastructure, closing roads, downing utility lines and leaving hundreds of people without power. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for 11 counties, including Essex and Hamilton.

Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Rusty Hall said the department received a call at 12:13 a.m. from the hiker — whose first name was Dan but whose last name is unclear — saying his truck was surrounded by water up to its bumper. The water was too deep to drive through and the current was too swift for him to take a chance on wading or swimming.

Firefighters waded down state Route 73, which Hall said was covered in 6 inches of water at the time, and responded to the hiker’s location behind the Mountaineer Garage Sale store.

Keene town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson said firefighters called the state Department of Environmental Conservation for airboat aid but decided they didn’t have time to wait.

The fire department contacted the town’s highway department and requested the use of its front bucket loader, Hall said. When the loader arrived, the department sent it in to the hiker with a rescuer wearing a life vest in the loader’s bucket. They got the stranded man into the loader’s bucket as well and drove him out of the flooded area.

The hiker spent the night in the firehouse and had left by Friday afternoon, Hall said.