Ten-foot flooding ravages roads in Berne

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Debris clings to the edge of a bridge on Bradt Hollow Road, which was eroded by Sunday’s rain. Berne Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger says the bridge is passable.

BERNE — Torrential rains on Sunday washed out eight roads in Berne, keeping some residents in their houses since culverts under their driveways gave out.

“I just bought pizza for 15 men,” said Berne Highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger on Tuesday afternoon. “Everything is passable in Berne.”

The six full-time and one part-time Berne highway workers were joined by a seven-man crew from Knox and the Knox highway superintendent, Gary Salisbury, repairing the Berne roads.

“It was a very strange storm,” said Bashwinger. He was at home. “I live right next to Town Hall. It rained hard for about an hour,” said Bashwinger, noting that was not unusual. “Just up the road from my house, three or four miles, they got hammered.”

In the southwestern part of Berne, “in back of the highway garage, up on the mountain, the water was higher than with Tropical Storm Irene,” said Bashwinger. “The flooding was very deep — 10 feet in some places.”

The rain came so hard and so fast that not only did it rip roadside ditches, it created double ditches, tearing up road shoulders as well. “Water jumped ditches and went along the side of the roads…We have to fill the ditch and the shoulder,” he said.  We’re filling with crusher run, new material.” Then the shoulders of the road have to be reshaped.

Also, debris from trees was strewn about and is being cleaned up.

The affected roads include Bradt Hollow and Bridge roads, which intersect; the small roads called Irons Lane and Schanz Lane; Cook Hill Road, Lawton Hollow Road, Dutch Settlement; and Canaday Hill Road, which was probably hit the hardest, said Bashwinger.

The towns of Berne, Wright, and Middleburgh are working to make repairs. “Canaday Hill is the worst,” reiterated Bashwinger.

The rain stopped falling at about 6 p.m. on Sunday, said Bashwinger. A road crew worked from 6:30 to 11 p.m. on Sday night. “We had headlights from the trucks,” said Bashwinger. “People couldn’t get out of their driveways,” he said of the reason for the urgent night work.

It will take at least a month to complete repairs on the town roads, said Bashwinger, noting that the county is responsible for repairing damage to Route 10.

On Tuesday, Bashwinger said, “We’re doing a lot of filling right now.” Also washed-away culverts were being replaced with plastic ones. Bashwinger estimates it will take “at least a month” to complete repairs.

A first priority was “getting driveways so people can get in and out,” said Bashwinger. Some residents of Canaday Hill could not get out of their driveways for a day and a half, he said.

“Every resident in the town of Berne can get out of their driveway now,” Bashwinger said on Tuesday.

The only bridge that was damaged, which is located on Bradt Hollow Road, looks to be structurally sound, said Bashwinger.

“The main part looks OK,” he added. “On each side of the bridge are baskets with big stones to give it support. Those fell over. We’re hoping to bring them up and pack them back in.”


The Enterprise — Michael Koff
The power of water can be seen in the way Sunday’s storm ripped up earth along Bradt Hollow Road in Berne. The picture was taken on Monday.


Bashwinger plans to have a county engineer inspect the bridge to make sure it is structurally sound.

Asked if any funds would be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bashwinger, who has been busy making repairs, said, “I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.”

FEMA funding is unlikely. The process is long and involved, and ends with a decision by the president, according to FEMA spokesman Don Caetano.

“You have to have a disaster declaration. The only person that can do that is the governor,” said Caetano. First, he said, state and local officials look to see if the damage is beyond their capacity to hand. If it is, “They call in the feds,” said Caetano. “Then we go out with state and local [officials] to look at the damages and collect data and the governor decides whether he wants to apply for a disaster declaration. The president alone can approve a declaration.”

Caetano recommended, if local officials have questions or concerns, “They should work through their county emergency-management folks who are in touch with the state.”

Corrected on June 2, 2016: The rainstorm was Sunday, May 29, not Saturday, May 28, as originally written.

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