Brian's Blog: 'A Call for Help'; Flood Waters Hitting Home
If there's one thing a reporter has to do in most every story he or she covers, it's to take the emotions out of it. No matter how brutal the story may be, you have to present the whole story and share all sides.
But I now have a blog. Some of that emotion can come out here. It's a safe place for that.
When our flooding coverage started, it was docks and it was high water. It wasn't taken as serious by those of us on the outside looking in. We hear flooding and we expect Katrina. Anything else is not a big deal. But two weeks ago, the smart people of Chamount were just making sure they got a head start. They knew what was coming and knew how serious it would be. (More on that later.)
Over the past two weeks I have seen some amazing things, both good and bad.
I have seen Lake Ontario as angry as it's ever been and a group of people all volunteer their efforts to fight back.
Earlier this week I was just hanging out the Chamount Fire Station when a couple invited me to their home. They told me it was surrounded by water and they were scared. When we arrived at the home, the water was higher than it was when they left to head to the station just an hour before. (The NYS Insurance bus was in town.)
The news story is high water, homes in danger and the people affected.
In that story, I tried to protray their struggle and sorrow as best I could while keeping the story on focus.
But here was a husband and wife who shared their pain. They busted their butts for three decades to earn enough home equity to eventually buy their dream home Point Peninsula. It was on the water. People who do the right thing and work hard deserve that finish.
But this year Lake Ontario disagreed.
When I got there the water was unimaginable. It was waist high by the front porch. It was shin deep in their backyard. It was the worst I've seen and it's not even close. Oh, by the way, they aren't summer residents. This is their home.
This family didn't have insurance for floods. This family didn't build away from the water. If you fault them for that, you have to fault so many more.
Flood insurance can be hundreds of dollars a month, thousands a year. Do you know the last time anyone in Jefferson County had to worry about shoreline flooding? 1973. Do the math. You can't blame people for not wanting to spend that money when there hasn't been a reason in many of our lifetimes.
The water has destroyed their boathouse and what was inside that. They have spent more than $2,000 in rocks and gravel to just try and move the water away. It hasn't worked. They are pumping out water just to keep it level. It's not going down.
I stood there as they were watching their home get swallowed up. (I parked in their dry section of driveway when I arrived. 15 minutes later it was ankle deep.)
They were kind enough to discuss their situation for the story, but it didn't take long before the wife started crying and then the husband started to cry. I wanted to.
They are now begging for help from FEMA. (Congress members like Elise Stefanik wrote to Governor Cuomo today to urge him to request FEMA help.)
If that help doesn't come and the waters do reach the home, they could lose everything.
That brings me to this. Homes and homeowners need help, but so do those people in the trenches everyday helping.
There are people out there that have spent their free time and energy helping this family and many more.
Volunteer Fire crews from Chaumont, Three Mile Bay, Theresa and more helped this family lay sand bags and tarps to keep the water at bay.
I have seen day in and day out, people like Fred and Heather Jackson in Chamount give up everything to help. They don't sleep, they miss events, take days off of work and Fred showed me how swollen his hands are. He joked he doesn't even have finger prints anymore.
But everyday crews are fighting through the pure physical pain and are out bagging sand. Everyday crews are out laying bags. EVERYDAY.
I'm in awe of what they are giving to help their community.
Chaumont got this county-wide sandbagging station dumped on them and haven't complained once. They take it all and keep going.
Guess what? The may play it down, but they're EXHAUSTED. We're entering week three. The first two weeks they were out there with shovels and upside down road cones to bag the sand by hand.
Jefferson County has gotten the village some help. 20 members of the Air National Guard are now on site, a sandbagging machine is there and the state providing more bags and more sand.
Those ANG members have been amazing and have helped the volunteers like we may never know. They have told me how much they appreciate those efforts.
A request just this week for another machine, more bags and sand was approved. Also those 20 ANG members will stay here longer than planned. They were supposed to leave Friday.
But what confuses me is what has yet to be approved. It's what they need the most, people. Another 20 members of that guard were requested to just keep up. But that wasn't approved with the other stuff.
This isn't a village workstation anymore. People from every town and village in the county can come claim those bags.
The guard fills bags during the day and then right as the dinner bell rings at 5pm, Chaumont's crew heads out to start bagging sand themselves, mostly still BY HAND. There are other departments that are answering that bell as well. It's no longer just Chaumont.
I understand there are other counties dealing with this and perhaps the dangers are even more apparent, but manpower is what's needed now.
For every bag that's filled in Chaumount, two bags are taken out. The demand is overtaking the supply.
So I think it's fair for the county to ask for that help. I think it's fair for NYS to give it.
I've seen other departments offer to help bag sand and I hope more jump on board.
I've seen everyday people get out of work and head over. I hope more jump on board.
I've seen school kids filling bags. I'll see more tomorrow for part of my story.
I really hope I'm soon reporting about NYS jumping on board with more bodies.
If there's one thing I've seen these past few weeks is that this is one heck of a community effort. People are helping people. It's time for other people, people in charge from NYS to FEMA to further help these people.
If whoever can approve sending more man power this way gets to see just a sliver of what I've seen from Chaumont's VFD and the other crews around here, (Brownville, Three Mile Bay, Sackets, Pamelia, Black River, Theresa and all the rest, there's no way they can say no.