By KEVIN LIMITI and GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were on the scene in southwestern Otsego County on Sunday, July 18, to assess flooding Saturday, July 17, in the villages of Morris and Gilbertsville and the towns of Morris and Butternuts.
According to Rep. Michelle Farwell, D-Butternuts, Morris, Pittsfield, the cost of the damage is expected to be in the millions, particularly with the damage to one of the bridges on state Route 51.
Heavy rains Saturday night caused the Butternut Creek and several of its tributaries to flood, first around Gilbertsville, and later in Morris south of the Otsego County Fairgrounds. An eyewitness account said the floodwaters in Gilbertsville at about 8:30 p.m., Saturday, were “like a waterfall coming down the hill.”
The floods stuck Morris a few minutes later, after a wash of flood debris clogged the culverts around the fairground, which were put in after the massive 2006 floods. The debris rendered the improvements useless and many of the same areas that flooded in 2006 got reflooded.
Roads and bridges were damaged along routes that crossed or ran parallel to the Butternut Creek and the Dunderburg Creek, which runs through Gilberstville, and meets the Butternut at the east end of the village.
Many of the roads that were closed Saturday and Sunday are now open, but as of 10 a.m. Monday, July 19, county Route 4 and state Route 51 are still closed, according to county officials.
Otsego County Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, declared a state of emergency in the towns of Butternuts, Pittsfield and Morris on Sunday. He said FEMA was on the ground to assess the damage and he will be meeting with state representatives at 11:30 a.m. Monday, July 19, in order to talk specifics about the damage.
“All along the 51 corridor, there’s a lot of infrastructure that we’re going to have to build back,” Farwell said.
She said state and federal funds “are going to be absolutely necessary.”
Farwell thanked the town officials, municipal officials, county officials, firefighters and emergency coordinators.
“It’s times like this when you recognize the importance of the work they do,” Farwell said.