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Tropical Storm Irene 3 year anniversary

Three years ago, Tropical Storm Irene hit Schoharie County. The water took homes, crops and pieces of a community. Thursday, residents and community leaders gathered in Blenheim to celebrate the progress that has been made since then.
“When I look back on that day, it was very easy to give up, it was very easy to throw in the towel,” said Don Airey, the Chair of the Blenheim Long Term Community Recovery Committee.
Flash forward to today and Airey said it is clear the Blenheim is moving forward. He is a member of a group formed in Blenheim to help with recovery. Members decided early on to rebuild better than before. One of the goals was to form a community center. A town wide yard sale is helping to pay for it.
“Yes we've applied for grants, yes we are looking for federal, state and county dollars, but more importantly we felt it was a way to show we were engaged as a group, and kind of forging our own way,” he said.
In a month or so, Airey said the group has raised about $3,000. The goal is to give neighbors a place to meet and share ideas. He said $90,000 is needed to rehab the building, which is a former church. Long term, the group estimates it needs about $300,000 to completely create the community center. It will be a phased project.
“If there was a good thing about the flood of Irene, it refocused our efforts, it woke us up to mitigation but also moving forward,” said Airey.
The center is just a piece of the renewal throughout the county.              Schoharie Area Long Term, or SALT, is working with towns throughout the area on a path forward. It is focused on tourism, agriculture and fostering new ideas.
“Like the corn that has to be torn down and ripped apart in order to release it's potential, we can use our devastation following the flood as a springboard to release the potential,” said Sarah Goodrich, Executive Director of SALT.
Leaders hope to build a river walk along the water for recreation and tourism and reconstruct the Blenheim Bridge.
While SALT said there is much to celebrate, it said there is more work to do. Seventy-three percent of homeowners who experienced damage said they have recovered. Fifteen percent said there is more to do. The rest, cannot rebuild where they were.
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