Watch CBS News

President Obama Signs Irene Disaster Declaration For Upstate New York Counties

BEDFORD HILLS, NY (WCBS 880/AP) - President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in New York after Tropical Storm Irene, freeing up federal recovery funds.

WCBS 880's Steve Scott and Lynda Lopez with Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef


The Sunday storm deluged some areas, triggering devastating flash floods that knocked buildings off their foundations, washed away roads and bridges, swamped farmland and cut power to almost a million people in New York alone.

Obama's declaration makes funding available to people in the counties of Albany, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Ulster. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs.

State and eligible local governments and some private nonprofits in 19 counties are also eligible for funding.

Applications can be made starting Thursday by calling 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) or clicking here.

WCBS 880's John Metaxas In Bedford Hills


Meanwhile, in New York City's northern suburbs, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene has led to people finding new ways of doing things that are usually so simple.

It's bad enough having no lights or working refrigerator, but in this power outage people are desperate to keep their smartphones and laptops charged.

So, they've ventured out to coffee joints and fast food restaurants in search of that elusive power plug that works.

"I almost got in a fight at Dunkin' Donuts yesterday morning, actually, because there was one outlet for the entire Dunkin' Donuts and the line was out the door and a woman came in and put her computer on one side and phone on the other and I said 'Really? You're going to use both of those?' So, we made peace," said Bedford resident Jennifer Griff.

Griff was at the Bedford town courthouse, which was making its outlets available to residents who have lost power.

The scene was similar at the local coffee spot in Chappaqua, where you could see folks sipping their lattes while charging their laptops.

"Electronics run out daily. I mean, every twenty hours or so," said Chappaqua resident Miles Hughes.

"I'm very thankful because, otherwise, I don't know what I would do. I won't have power until Friday," said Mount Kisco resident Melissa Russo.

Denise Alexis and her family have been trying to make do without power.

"It's kind of hard when you're used to having your TV, telephones, lights, and now when you don't have it you kind of okay in the daytime. When it gets dark, you're kind of looking at each other. So, we have played Monopoly," she said, adding that what she really misses is hot water.

WCBS 880's Peter Haskell In New City


WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reports many utilities in Rockland County are providing free ice for those without power.

In NYSEG's Brewster division - Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester Counties - they say the majority will have their power back by Friday night, with the remainder by early next week.

At the Vista fire station, assistant chief Gary Lawsen says blocked roads have been cleared so the power crews can get in.

"We just got our first shipment of dry ice in yesterday," he told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnane. "That went pretty quick, that first shipment. We've also set up a charging station for cell phones, laptops."

Most homes are on wells in the Lewisboro area, and so flushing the toilet involves a bucket of water from the pool, according to one man.

WCBS 880's Paul Murnane In Lewisboro


"It's like the olden days," he said.

For his kids, it has been more of an ordeal, with their tech toys sitting quiet with black screens, but he's bonded with them over board games.

Power did return last night to some businesses.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams In Sloatsburg


Tiny Sloatsburg is a tranquil Rockland County village nestled in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains.

It became one of Hurricane Irene's punching bags.

All of that runoff turned the Ramapo and Mahwah rivers into monsters that swept away one bridge and damaged the one on Seven Lakes Drive.

One man saw hot tubs floating by.

"They were floating up by the railroad tracks," he said.

"Just washed away?" asked WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

"Yep. Like old coffins, you know how they come out of the graveyard with the floods," said the man. "They were like boats."

Like so many other places, there are dark homes and swamped basements.

Adding insult to injury, an Orange & Rockland contractor reportedly took out a water main by mistake.

A fuel spill upriver in Tuxedo has fouled the water and the air.

However, United Water tells The Journal News there is no imminent threat to drinking water.

Westchester health officials have lifted an advisory that warned residents to avoid contact with the Hudson River because of sewage spill due to Tropical Storm Irene.

The Journal News reports that the sewage spill has stopped. It was caused by a dislodged manhole cover at the North Yonkers Pump Station.

Officials say they may not be able to calculate the amount of sewage that ran into the river because of the nature of the spill.

WCBS 880's John Metaxas In Briarcliff Manor


The Citgo station on Route 9A and North State Road in Briarcliff Manor has power and it has gasoline, but it has no customers because of a giant sink hole right next to the entrance caused by Hurricane Irene.

"That hole's gotta be like 20-feet-long, about 6-8 feet deep and a good ten-feet-wide," says Mark, the manager at Biratella's Citgo.

He says the town was right to close the street for safety reasons.

But it's killing his business.

"We can't get anyone in. They blocked the road and it's dangerous for anyone to come across that sinkhole there," he told WCBS 880's John Metaxas. "Our numbers are negative. We can't produce. We can't do anything right now."

Mark says the town knew about underground damage following a previous storm, but didn't do anything about it.

The town has promised a visit to discuss a solution, but even the village manager admits there's no easy fix.

Repairing this hole could take weeks.

WCBS 880's John Metaxas In Bronxville


Workers in Bronxville are cleaning out the elementary and high school after the Bronx River overflowed its banks and flooded the schools sunday.

"Mostly the basements. There are like six inches worth of water," said one cleanup worker.

The gymnasium's wood floor buckled in the school.

Other parts of the school were damaged, including cabinets and books.

They expect to spend at least a week cleaning up.

In Briarcliff Manor, school bus routes are being diverted to get around the large sinkhole that won't be fixed in time for the start of school.

In Katonah-Lewisboro, all orientations, teacher training, and meetings with guidance counselors have been cancelled after four schools in the district lost power.

They're hoping to salvage their opening day next week.

Have you found a new way to accomplish something that's usually very simple? Let us know in the comments section below!

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.