The Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York have been badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene as heavy rain pushed creeks and rivers over their banks, closed roads, and washed away buildings. Emergency officials are still assessing the damages but already report hundreds of damaged or destroyed roads and bridges. Essex County officials have declared a state of emergency.
The highways connecting Lake Placid, Keene, and Wilmington were closed due to flooding and washouts, homes were evacuated, high winds toppled trees onto power lines, the county’s emergency radio system was off the air, and many people were stranded by the high water. There are numerous evacuations and the fire station in Keene was swept away by the raging Gulf Brook. Road closures have effectively isolated many of the region’s small towns such as Keene, Keene Valley, Jay and Upper Jay.
Although forest rangers are still assessing Tropical Storm Irene’s damage to the Adirondack backcountry, they know the bridge over Marcy Dam was washed out Sunday and is gone. One of the most popular crossings in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, the bridge over Marcy Dam was a favorite rest and photo opportunity spot for hikers.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) spokesman David Winchell said the crossing is now impassable. Winchell said DEC is encouraging people to stay out of the backcountry as the department evaluates the damage to trails and other facilities.
“We are just beginning assessments,” he said. “We have received reports of bridges washed away and trails severely eroded in the eastern High Peaks and Dix and Giant Wilderness Areas.” Winchell said the DEC hasn’t had any reports of injuries as a result of the storm and urges people to stay out of the backcountry because of the risk of landslides.
The Atmospheric Science Research Center (ASRC) at the summit of the Whiteface Mountain recorded 7.5 inches of rain fell from Irene.