BLENHEIM N.Y. – Tropical Storm Irene hit the Schoharie area three years ago, since then the community has come a long way.
Many Schoharie residents and business owners suffered significant damage and lost most of their property due to the tropical storm. A great deal of infrastructure in the area was also destroyed after being swept away in flood waters.
Worsening the conditions, 11 days after Irene hit, Tropical Storm Lee pounded the Schoharie area with more rain.
Through it all, the community came together realizing they needed a recovery plan to bring families home and start rebuilding; this is how SALT or Schoharie Area Long Term was created.
The SALT organization has been the driving force behind rebuilding and getting back to normal. Executive Director Sarah Goodrich said a majority of the county has recovered, but she said there is still more work to be done.
"People in homes doesn't mean you have a community. So we really need to look at the broader focus of recovery which includes bringing businesses back,” she said. “It includes economic expansion and includes developing the potential of this area.”
Officials estimate 73 percent of residents have come back, but 15 percent are still in need. With the help of SALT and the United Methodist Church, which became the central hub after all the destruction, plans to rebuild their food pantry and thrift shop after they were destroyed in 2011.
On Thursday, organizers met at the Blenheim Community Center for their event called “Three Years Long, Three Years Strong.” The focus was on how neighbors came together following the storms and how many vowed to come back stronger after the devastation.
“If you want to live here, you have to survive, recover and keep going,” Blenheim farmer Robert Wilson said.
Wilson is a fifth generation farmer. He owns Royal Oak Farm. He has more than 350 acres of land.
“We figured it out,” he said. “It was like about $65,000 loss in crops.”
But Wilson considers himself a survivor rather than a victim of the storm. He said he received money from the federal and state government and used it to rebuild.
Marjorye and Joseph Ward moved back into their home one year and three months after Irene with the help of volunteers.
“Everybody kind of pulled together, and we’re definitely better friends,” Marjorye said. “Better united.”