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Oct 09, 2023

Orange County under state of emergency after storm kills 43

By Tony Aiello, Naveen Dhaliwal, Elijah Westbrook, Zinnia Maldonado

Updated on: July 11, 2023 / 8:12 AM / CBS New York

HIGHLAND FALLS, N.Y. -- Unprecedented flooding swept parts of New York on Sunday, killing 43-year-old Pamela Nugent in Orange County.

A state of emergency remains in effect for the county, along with a flood watch for most of eastern New York through Tuesday night.

CBS New York had team coverage of the storm of what was called a 1-in-1,000-year event.

Chopper 2 was over Highland, where Route 218 was completely washed away. There's a giant hole in the mountainside where there used to be a road. Water was still falling over it on Monday.

It's not the Kensico Dam, but a makeshift one that did the trick for Brian Fredrickson. During the Sunday afternoon storm, the makeshift dam diverted water from rushing into his home. He said he's grateful to the neighbors who helped build it.

"It went from a small flow to a major flow and if we didn't build this, this would have all been gone," Fredrickson said.

His garage did flood, and his back walkway crumbled under the force of the water. His was one of many homes on Mountain Avenue that was damaged by the historic deluge.

"Scared. Scared. Scared to death," Highland Falls resident Irma Rodridguez said.

"I have a sump pump in the basement, wasn't even able to use it. Everything's destroyed," Highland Falls resident Aisha Hendrix said.

Hendrix lost everything in her basement -- thousands of dollars in damage.

"The furnace, the water heater, the whole electrical panel was sitting under six feet of water," Hendrix said.

There was major damage to the Weyant Green apartment complex. Video shows Savannah Pitcher in the water preparing to join others to rescue residents.

"Terrified. You could see it on their face. They were terrified. You could hear it in their voice. It was horrible," Pitcher said.

Kat Dagaev shot some video before she was rescued by West Point firefighters. Her shoes were washed off her feet. A friend gave her a different pair.

"I don't feel like I was even in my body. I still haven't completely let go because I'm afraid if I start crying I won't stop," Dagaev said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul visited and expressed pride in the first responders, including state troopers, who rescued the stranded, including hundreds of drivers.

Hochul shared condolences to the family of Nugent, who died as water rushed through her neighborhood.

"Was with her dog and her fiancé literally saw her swept away. Terror, devastation right here less than 24 hours ago," Hochul said.

Ed Nugent was tired and in shock as he looked at his washed-out road. He said he can't forget the last seconds of his daughter Pamela's life.

"It happened so quick. Two seconds, she was gone. She though the house was going to collapse. She was hysterical," Ed Nugent said. "She came out to here and we're (saying) 'Get back, get back.' She went back and then she is stubborn. She put her head down, took the dog, and away she came out here."

As she tried to cross Mine Dock Road, she was overcome by a foot and a half of fast water and was swept away right in front of her father's eyes.

"She tried to grab the car here, couldn't grab it, and she went off to the side and there is a big hole in the road on the right and she went right down in there," Ed Nugent said.

The 43-year-old lived just down the road from her dad and moved to Fort Montgomery from the city. She was engaged and loved living there.

"Most beautiful, loving person in the world," a neighbor said. "None of this means anything. Pamela is gone."

Pamela Nugent had been planning her wedding for this October. Now, in a twist of fate, her father is planning to bury his eldest child.

I am expanding our State of Emergency to include Rockland, Clinton, Essex, and Oswego counties.We're working closely with communities to help them recover.If you’re in an impacted area, remember: Conditions can change in an instant. Please continue to exercise caution.

First responders were able to rescue dozens of people by boat, many caught by surprise at how quickly the water rose.

Hochul gave an update on the storm Monday and issued a state of emergency for Orange County.

"The first step is assessment. Assess the damage, assess the monetary value of the damage, so we can put in our request for FEMA assistance to help the communities to have the resources they need to rebuild," she said. "Also spoke with the White House."

Longtime friends John Venino and Peter Deverin from Little Silver, New Jersey, helped to shovel muck off Main Street in Highland Falls.

"We figured we'd pick up some shovels and help any way we can," Venino said.

They were stuck overnight after surviving the epic Sunday storm, trying to reach the U.S. military academy at West Point.

"We were driving up the mountain, and it just started raining, crazy, like something out of a movie. Boulders falling off the mountain, cars getting completely swallowed by water," said Deverin, an ROTC cadet.

Nine inches -- two months' worth -- of rain in a matter of a few hours. The water followed the path of least resistance through people's yards, and into their homes.

There's major damage to infrastructure, with buckled roads and the full closure of Route 9W Popolopen Creek Bridge after a partial lane collapse.

"Everyone here is pushing for a federal disaster declaration because we're gonna need it. Easily tens of millions of dollars in damage here," Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said.

CBS New York's Elijah Westbrook spent Monday morning in the Westchester County town of Yorktown surveying the damage.

Old Yorktown Road was eventually blocked off to traffic after multiple hours of cars trying to navigate their way through. Nearly a foot of water remained, as crews worked to drain what's left and reopen the street.

Parts of Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties were under water Monday morning after the wild weather.

One man said he didn't think the rain was that bad to cause the damage left behind.

"You'd hear pouring rain for a little while and then it would ease up and stop," Howard Brieatbarton said. "Then, you would get another round of extremely heavy rain, torrential downpours, and it would ease up. And it kept on going like that literately all day."

In Rockland, crews rescued a man by boat at a park near Lowland Hill Road in Stony Point. Officials said six hikers were also rescued at nearby Bear Mountain, including a child who was taken to the hospital with a head injury.

Stick with the First Alert Weather team for the latest forecast and weather alerts.

Tony Aiello serves as a CBS2 general assignment reporter with a focus on covering news and breaking stories in the Northern Suburbs.

First published on July 10, 2023 / 6:24 AM

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