By Staff Sgt. Dennis Gravelle, New York Army National Guard September 2, 2011
MIDDLEBURGH, NY (09/01/2011)-- From shoring up a creek to transporting emergency supplies here, New York National Guard Soldiers are helping residents weather flooding and other damages caused by Hurricane Irene.
"We are saving farms, and saving people by bringing supplies to them," said Capt. Bryan Reed, the officer-in-charge of Task Force Engineers in Schoharie County. "We are also clearing debris to allow access for supplies, as well as medicine and emergency personnel to get to people that are blocked off, " he said.
Task Force Engineer troops are among the 2,500 New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen New York Governor Andrew Cuomo mobilized in response to the landfall and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which has caused deaths, destruction and disarray in other states along the east coast.
The storm landed a severe right hook in Middleburgh Aug. 28, with flooding and damages residents had never seen before. Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm but still caught residents off guard by the amount of water and damage that it brought to the area.
"We ended up getting very high winds and several inches of rain and came up faster than we expected," said William Berdan, of Middleburgh. "We were not expecting anything like this and this area will never be the same again."
The Soldiers' first task was to avert more destruction.
"We had a creek that came through that essentially created its own creek and washed out several houses," Reed explained. "Our primary mission was to shore up the creek and save two houses, and we were able to complete that".
Shoring up the creek wasn't the only job the Soldiers performed. Residents were stranded on flooded farms, and people needed basic necessities like food, water and gas.
Having National Guard Soldiers there to help was extremely important to her and other people affected by the storm, said Sandy Prokop, a long-time Middleburgh resident who owns a farm with 800 head of cattle.
"This is the worst I have ever seen and having (National Guard Soldiers) here was wonderful," she said. "They came last night and delivered diesel fuel to keep our generator going, and they are back today bringing more fuel and also food and water to people in that area."
The Soldiers remain dedicated to the mission, said Sgt. Thomas Heath, of the 827th Engineer Company.
"I am sure these people are devastated and we will assist all in need, and do what we can so they can get on with their lives," he said.