Landslide prompts state of emergency in three Columbia County communities

November 17, 2017 12:19 AM

GREENPORT - The rain-soaked hillside gave way without warning, and apparently without witnesses, on Thursday afternoon. By the time the earth stopped moving, a huge chunk of it had been relocated.

"Approximately 300 by 100 yard section," declared Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett, "I'd like to emphasize that there is no danger to the public downstream."

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Bartlett said the Claverack Creek, that ordinarily flows freely between Greenport and Stottville was totally blocked.

By late afternoon, state and local officials were on the scene to begin planning the remedy. In addition, a State of Emergency was put in place.

"We declared it because it gives us the right to protect life, property and public infrastructure," said Bill Black, the Director of Columbia County Emergency Management. "If we need to access that brook from the other side, and we can't get a hold of the land owner to get permission, it gives us that right to do all those things."

But while making plans to divert the path of the creek, the most feasible corrective action officials say, they're also mindful that more earth could easily give way.

"That is a great possibility," Black asserts, "I think you've seen the pictures, you see how shear the bank is. That bank is actually sloped backwards so if someone walks out, stands on it, it actually could give way. That's one of our biggest concerns."

Black says the current landslide is almost identical to the one that occurred in the same spot in February 2006. That remedy lasted until Thursday.

"Everything was put on a clay layers, it got saturated, the clay layers got to the point where it wasn't stable," he said.

And until the creek bed is cleared and the hillside is stabilized, the Sons and Daughters of Italy hall on the top side of the creek is off limits.

"When this happened today, we looked over and there was two people standing on the bank looking over it," Black pointed out, "We don't need them to be at the bottom and then was have a rescue."

Bulldozers are expected at the scene by daybreak Friday morning.



WNYT Staff

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