While Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc across the eastern seaboard earlier this week, this region was spared from the most severe damage. No lives were lost, and there were no floods reported. Most of the damage came in the form of downed limbs and power outages.
In fact, almost everything local officials feared would happen didn't. It happens during unpredictable weather events, but responders were right in implementing emergency procedures and issuing warnings.
In the days leading up to Sandy's arrival, states of emergency were called across Montgomery County and specifically the village of Fonda, which found itself submerged after tropical storms Irene and Lee swept through town a little more than a year ago. Schools canceled afternoon and evening activities, and all schools in Montgomery County were closed Tuesday. Shelters were opened in case anyone had to evacuate their homes.
Before the storm hit, the state canal corporation began draining the Erie Canal to keep the Mohawk River from overflowing its banks. To the north, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District gave itself enough wiggle room near the Conklingville Dam in case water had to be held back in the Great Sacandaga Lake.
The biggest precaution taken was an agreement to let water out of the Schoharie Reservoir behind the Gilboa Dam. Last year, especially during Irene, the Schoharie Creek rose high and fast and swept down the valley into the Mohawk near Fort Hunter, leaving a swath of destruction and devastation in its path.
Of course, many residents in the area likely woke up Tuesday morning wondering if it was all necessary. It was.
After the flood of 2006, and again after Irene and Lee in 2011, emergency plans and procedures were put in place to help the area be better prepared when natural disasters occur. Of course, executing those plans aren't always successful, as evidenced last year by confusion over what a state of emergency actually meant because the county told people to stay off the roads while Amsterdam city officials were telling people to go food shopping.
While there's always room for improvement -- and communication was much better this time around -- it appears the region was better prepared in case Sandy's effects were worse than they actually were. Even if the worst did happen, this area was ready for it, and full credit goes to the people who put flood preparation and response plans together and executed them this week.
If you're thinking the precautions were overkill, especially since Sandy largely spared this area, think again. As Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said, it's always better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Living in a river valley has its challenges, and the risks of floods and the damage they cause are greater than what exists in other areas. Preparation is key in dealing with natural disasters, even when it's just a possibility. We're confident that local officials will review the actions taken this week and make adjustments if necessary.