By Eric Durr, New York National GuardNovember 7, 2019
HERKIMER, N.Y. - The New York National Guard mobilized 210 Soldiers and Airmen in response to heavy rains and winds that damaged roads and flooded towns in Herkimer County, Halloween night in upstate New York's Mohawk Valley.
Winds of up to 60 miles per hour and heavy rain hit the watershed leading into the Mohawk River.
"We saw rain totals of 3.6 inches in Oneida County, 5.2 inches in Herkimer County, and then 5.6 inches in Hamilton County," explained New York State Emergency Operations Director Michael Kopy. "This created significant flooding in areas downstream, in Utica, in Rome, in Herkimer, in Dolgeville, and a number of other communities."
There were 240,000 residences and businesses without power at the height of the storm.
In Herkimer County, one individual was killed when he drove his car into a flooded area, got out, and was swept away by the rising waters. A significant section of the village of Dolgeville was flooded and residents were evacuated from parts of the Town of Frankfort.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed New York National Guard leaders to send troops and equipment to help local governments cope with the post-storm cleanup.
"We're going to deploy 200 National Guard troops who are going to help. Many of these situations are still ongoing. There's going to be a lot of debris to clean up afterward, many of the homes are going to be uninhabitable. So the National Guard will help with that," the governor told reporters November 1.
The Soldiers and Airmen made a difference, and local residents appreciated it, said Major Gen. Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York.
"Speaking with our fellow citizens who suffered property loss and those whose homes were destroyed or declared condemned, they were all upbeat and appreciated the help and support of the National Guard," Shields said.
He met a farmer who lost a huge section of his pasture to flooding, with a barn barely standing, who still found time to thank the Guardsmen working in the area, Shields said.
"He and his family were providing sandwiches and coffee to our Soldiers working to build a berm between him and the creek," Shields said.
In Dolgeville, the scene of the heaviest flooding, the local Stewart's convenience store gave coffee and snacks to Soldiers for free, he said.
On Friday, Nov. 1, Soldiers and Airmen began mobilizing initial response forces at three air bases and several armories. Teams arrived at the Herkimer County Emergency Operations Center in the Village of Herkimer on Friday morning to be available to immediate missions and access the situation.
New York National Guard leaders mobilized debris clearance teams from the New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, N.Y. the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia, N.Y. and the 105th Airlift Wing in Newburg, N.Y. for the mission. The Army National Guard's 204th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Binghamton, N.Y. was tasked with sending an engineer response team equipped with front end loaders, bulldozers and dump trucks.
General response forces -- troops and Humvees, high axle Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTVs), and additional other trucks -- who conducted basic debris clearance and traffic control missions -- were dispatched from the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the 53rd Troop Command, the 109th Airlift Wing and the 174th Airlift Wing.
Shields directed the teams to move at 6 a.m. on November 2 to the marshaling location in Herkimer for mission assignments in support of local responders.
A 39-Soldier team from the 204th Engineer Battalion was tasked with cleaning up the debris left behind when the East Canada Creek flooded parts of Dolgeville.
The river breached a berm that the Army Corps of Engineers built to contain the stream in the 1930s, explained 1st Lt. Andrew Campany, the officer-in-charge of the team working on the project.
"From there it pretty much destroyed the foundations of 16 houses and went right through town, sweeping cars away," he said.
Along with punching a hole in the berm, the fast-moving water left rocks throughout the flooded area after the water receded, Campany said. The engineers brought in two bulldozers and other equipment to rebuild the embankment along East Canada Creeks and removed the debris left by the flooding.
Campany, a resident of the nearby town of Holland Patent and the executive officer of the 204th Engineer Battalion's 827th Engineer Company, said he was happy to be able to help his neighbors out by leading the response.
Campany's team was working in the Dolgeville area from Nov. 2 to Nov. 7. As missions in the towns of Frankfort, Newport, Ohio and Whitesboro were wrapped up, the general-purpose forces--troops and vehicles -- were released.
New York Air Guard debris clearance teams from the 174th, 109th and 105th wings stayed on-site longer, along with the members of the 204th Engineers.
The number of troops on mission went from 210 to 35 by Nov. 7 as the force right-sized. The entire task force completed its recovery mission and reset for the balance of the week, November 8-9.
"Having toured the flood-damaged areas every day since Saturday, it's amazing what our Soldiers and Airmen have accomplished," Shields said.