Today marks one year since Tropical Storm Irene hit. The state saw $1.5 billion worth of damage. In places like Schoharie, entire homes were lifted off their foundations by the flood waters. One year later, our Maria Valvanis checks up with the residents and with groups that were created around rebuilding the community.
SCHOHARIE, N.Y. -- "Our middle child was a week out from starting her freshman year in college, so she was here when this all went down and went to Boston feeling homeless," said Suzanne Robinson-Parisi of Schoharie. "So one of our big pushes was to return her room to the way it was. That's been my goal because I don't want my children to feel homeless."
One year later, Suzanne Robinson-Parisi's family is still not back in there Main Street home.
"Tremendous is the first word that comes to mind," she said. "It's been a roller coaster, and it's been a year full of crises and opportunity and blessings...What we thought was a one-year plan, is beginning to look more like a two-year-plus with everything, but that's okay. We'll be better in the end. We're still incredibly hopeful."
Hope, courage, and a lot of hard work have helped residents through this devastating disaster. But the Village of Schoharie is far from back to normal.
Josh DeBartolo of Schoharie Recovery said, "A year later, we're looking at about 25 percent of properties are completely done, with about a third in the middle that are still working real close, and about a third on the bottom that are still very much either properties are for sale, things that were torn down, things that are kind at the very, very early stages."
SALT Executive Director Sarah Goodrich said, "We do know there is a lot left to be done in the region to try to return to some sense of normalcy. I don't really like to say pre-flood status because we won't be there. We're changed. But it will be good again, and in many instances I think will be better."
The storms damaged 274 of the 290 village properties. What followed was a massive nationwide volunteer effort to help residents move back in.
DeBartolo said, "My little brother was getting married the day before the storm. I came back in for the wedding thinking I was staying for the weekend, and when the storm hit the next day, we turned the reception hall into a shelter."
DeBartolo never left. He now heads up Schoharie Recovery, one of two non-profit organizations formed following Irene to help the village move past the disaster. The effort by Recovery and Schoharie Area Long Term has paid off. In one year's time 40 percent of the damaged properties are moved back into.
Goodrich said, "The word surreal comes to mind. It's hard to believe. It's really hard to believe that it's been a year."
Betsy Smith said, "It's incredible. I can't thank them enough. That part has been a real positive. It's a great community, and that's one of the reasons why we didn't want to leave."
Betsy Smith and her husband are two of the fortunate who have moved back in their home.
"It's family now, and even more now that we've put every bit of ourselves into it," Smith said.
"We're hoping the community will revive, be reborn, have a renaissance."
The stories you heard today are from just four of the thousands of lives now changed forever, proving just how strong a community can be."
Robinson-Parisi said, "I think we've determined how important our home was to us, and being a part of the larger community. I don't know that we realized that so much either until you go through an event like this and you have all of that help and all of those volunteers and your friends and neighbors and the school, trying to pull together to return the community back to, I'm hoping better than it was before, better."