Apalachin neighborhood left with lasting reminder of 2011 flood  

 Apalachin neighborhood left with lasting reminder of 2011 flood   

The arm of an excavator grabs onto a house located on Wayside Lane in Apalachin, N.Y. – one of a dozen homes torn down during July and August 2014 due to extensive damage from Tropical Storm Lee that hit the region in September of 2011.  (Provided photo)

 Apalachin neighborhood left with lasting reminder of 2011 flood   

A house located on Wayside Lane in Apalachin, N.Y. sits in the distance. In the foreground are empty lots where other houses once stood, recently torn down due to extensive damage from Tropical Storm Lee that hit the region in September 2011.
(Photo by JoAnn R. Walter)

 Apalachin neighborhood left with lasting reminder of 2011 flood   

Happy memories of a neighborhood forever changed, Ginger Westover Garren’s children set up lemonade stands on the corner of McFall Road and Wayside Lane in Apalachin, N.Y. during several summers, including the summer of 2011. In July and August 2014, the Garren’s residence and other homes were torn down due to extensive damage from Tropical Storm Lee that hit the region in September of 2011. (Provided photo)

A dozen vacant homes on McFall Road and Wayside Lane in Apalachin, N.Y. stood as heartbreaking reminders of Tropical Storm Lee’s powerful force.  Even though some wouldn’t have guessed the 2006 flood could be repeated, Lee’s impact in September 2011 shattered previous rainfall and flood records. The haunting phrase, “a horizontal Niagara Falls” is just one of many used to describe Lee’s overwhelming strength.

Now, three years later, 12 homes were taken down during July and August 2014 in the Apalachin neighborhood. Many residents had just rebuilt after the 2006 flood, so experiencing Lee was a second major blow to them in five years. For homeowners who left behind their homes, remain in the neighborhood or still have ties to it, witnessing the destruction of homes is an indescribable experience, and leaves them with a heavy heart.

“It’s just so sad seeing all the homes gone,” shared Sue Bundy Tripp, who grew up on McFall Road.

Tripp explained that when her family first moved to McFall Road in 1955, there was an open field behind their house, which is now filled with homes on Circle Drive. Today, now that houses have been removed, vacant lots are scattered amongst homes still standing.

Like many families who have lived in the neighborhood for decades, Margaret Liberatore’s family first moved to Circle Drive about 1960, just as development was thriving. Liberatore stated that 3.5 feet of water filled her basement when Lee hit, and she and her husband were evacuated by boat and spent three days at a church shelter. The Liberatore’s had remodeled their basement after the 2006 flood, and then in 2011 faced the same challenge again.

“But we were actually one of the lucky families,” Margaret explained, referring to other families who had flood waters reaching into first floor levels, and who lost so much more.

Because it was pouring rain on September 7, 2011, Ginger Westover Garren waited with her son inside their Wayside Lane home for the bus on the first day of school. Her son’s first day of Kindergarten is now remembered as a life-changing event. Garren had gone out to breakfast with friends after her son left for school, but quickly decided to return home because she felt “something wasn’t right about the rain.”

The Garren’s home, rebuilt after the 2006 flood, had several feet of water into the first floor from Lee. Glad she returned home sooner that day, personal belongings were moved to the second floor as fast as possible. Today, Garren explained she does feel a sense of closure since the house was torn down, but the loss and sadness will always remain. She shared, “It was so sad to see it abandoned.”

McFall Road resident Janet Shear, who lives with her husband, Bill, and mother-in-law, Dorothy, lost everything in their basement in 2006, and more in 2011 when several feet of water entered the first floor. Recently celebrating her 90th birthday, Dorothy Shear has lived in the same McFall Road home for 59 years, a short distance from the famous Barbara mafia meeting up the hill. Shear explained that Dorothy would’ve missed her friends and neighbors, so rebuilding again was the best decision.

Residents who remain living in the neighborhood are now wondering if the vacant lots will be maintained and are also concerned about future flooding. Town of Owego Supervisor Donald Castellucci, Jr. stated, by email, “The property does become the responsibility of the Town of Owego, and the Town has the responsibility to maintain it as open space.”

 Apalachin neighborhood left with lasting reminder of 2011 flood   

Mike Garren waded through several feet of water to help carry a cat to safety during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011. The Garren’s home on Wayside Lane was one of many recently taken down due to extensive damage. (Provided photo)

Castellucci added, “The risk of flooding is not increased by the homes being removed. Town wide we are working on protecting municipal assets and upgrading infrastructure and increasing our capacity to respond to major events. We have met locally and as a region to mitigate issues to help reduce the impact of flooding. When the next event occurs we will be better prepared for it.  Unfortunately, you can never eliminate it.”

Typically a peaceful neighborhood on most days, McFall Road, Wayside Lane, and other surrounding streets come alive for four days each year during the Apalachin Firemen’s Field Days. The Field Day grounds were impacted by Lee, too, including loss of equipment and damage to buildings, which prompted the event to be canceled in 2012 for the first time in its history.

Sue Bundy Tripp’s description of the neighborhood echoes the feelings of others, and pays tribute to a neighborhood that will always remain part of their identity. “We had such a good neighborhood, and many wonderful memories,” Tripp said.

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