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Harrison Finds Solutions Year After Hurricane Irene

HARRISON, N.Y. — In the year since Hurricane Irene struck Harrison, leaving downed trees, closed streets, shuttered colleges and many without power in its wake, town officials focused on solutions to the flooding issue.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said town engineer Michael Amodeo. “It was definitely a reminder that we can’t forget about these storms. Even though we haven’t had one in a year, it doesn’t mean that we forgot about and we’re not working towards preventing the same things from happening.”

One of the “huge steps” Harrison faced in combatting issues from Irene and other storms was a townwide flood study involving the help of a flood expert, which is still being completed.

“It’s a large town and there’s a lot of different parts of the town, but we broke it down into watersheds,” said Amodeo. “We started to analyze each watershed. We put out a survey to the community to help collect data, collect information, problem areas, intensities of problems and destruction, so we can get a real understanding of what’s happening all over town.”

The first area that Amodeo and his crew focused on was the Brentwood Brook watershed.

“We developed a model, and we were able to calibrate the model based on the information that the community provided us – pictures during the flooding – to calibrate the elevation that the water came up to in certain areas to get a real handle on what’s going on and really have a good working model,” he said. ??

From the Brentwood Brook study, the town developed the 3 Dam Project, which was proposed in February; survey work was completed in May, and the project is now in the design process.

“We’re looking to wrap that up by the end of the year and hopefully move on construction on that project,” Amodeo said.

The project will build three dams: off Genessee Trail, Shawnee Trail and Tamarac Trail. The dams were proposed because, during severe storms, floodwaters flow across parallel streets where the pipes can’t handle the volume of water.

Amodeo is hoping the town will receive grants for several roadway projects for which he and his team have prepared designs. He also said Harrison is dealing with FEMA to get “reimbursements, because it was declared a disaster, for the cleanup efforts that we had to go through.”

“We’re trying to line up funds, get some grant money for these projects because we know times are tight,” he said. “The funds are what controls what gets done and how quickly it gets done, but at least now we have solid information to build on.”

Irene is constantly on Amodeo’s mind; he said the hurricane provided him and his workers with “much more information on how to attack this problem.”

“We’re looking at it every day,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like a year to me. I’m sure our community that’s in the floodplains, they’re always on the edge of their chair when it starts to rain. It also made us realize that we have to prepare for this – to expect that’s going to happen again – this type of storm.”

He is hopeful that next time, Harrison will be better prepared. 

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