Ivan leaves his mark on Sussex County

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    SUSSEX COUNTY-The typically quiet Borough of Branchville was awoken to the sounds of eight separate rings of the municipality's fire whistle last Saturday morning. Water in the creek that spans throughout the small community ravaged out of control when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan dumped over five inches of rain in a matter of hours. In addition to several locations hit with varying degrees of minor flooding, two homes on Mill Street were completely overwhelmed by rising waters. At around 8 a.m., Helen Torre, who has lived as a tenant on Mill Street for the past 12 years, was speaking on the telephone when she heard a noise coming from her basement. While walking downstairs to check on the sound, she witnessed what she described as "white water rapids" coming into her home. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said Torre. Within minutes, the water rose out of control, and by 9 a.m., the water was as high as the house's front door doorknob. "This is the first year the water has come over like this," said Torre. "The irony is, it's called dry creek." The owner of the home, Art Florio, had renovated the building just months prior to the flooding. He was in the process of selling the home, and the structure was scheduled for an open house the very next day. "I may end up keeping it," said Florio who visited the house while members of the Branchville Fire Department attempted to pump water away from the house. "I'll either keep it or rebuild it or whatever. This isn't going to slow me up." The rising waters of Dry Creek also devastated another residence on Mill Street. In yet another twist of irony, Wes Shelton, a resident of the flooded home, serves as the Deputy Emergency Manager Coordinator for Sussex County. At the time of the flooding, Shelton had been checking on flood conditions throughout Branchville. After learning of the rising waters, he quickly returned home to helplessly witness his home overtaken by the waters. Joining Shelton at the site was the Director of Sussex County's Division of Emergency Management Eskil Danielson who immediately contacted the Red Cross to help house the displaced families. According to several members of the Branchville Fire Department, the flooding occurred because a construction platform was dislodged from a bridge construction site upstream. The structure became trapped less than 30 yards from where the brook overflowed. After water had been pumped away from the two homes, a backhoe dislodged the platform. In August 2000, the Sparta area suffered similar flodding when torrential rains dumped several inches of rain in a short period of time. The area suffered intensive damage as a result. Some areas such as Seneca Lake are still recovering from that event. It took less than three hours for Ivan to disappear from the area. By 11 a.m., the rain had stopped and the waters had fully receded back into the creek. However, the damage done to personal property for at least two families in Sussex County will take much longer to replace.