David Katz was not going to throw out his rugby balls.
The big-screen TV, the washing machine, the dryer, all gone. Irreplaceable pictures, videos from state trooper school, completely unsalvageable. But no matter how drenched or mucky, not the rugby balls.
“I’m not throwing out my rugby balls,” he said. “Everything else is in the garbage, but not these. I need to hold on to something.”
Katz tossed his rugby balls off to the side onto his damp lawn and went back to clearing out the ground level of his house. A friend brought a black mesh bag and put it in the ever-growing pile of trash at the end of Katz’s driveway.
“My helmet also?” Katz said.
Yep, helmet also. Luckily for Katz, a helmet is much cheaper than buying a new motorcycle. And Katz moved his motorcycle Saturday night, the night before Hurricane Irene arrived on Klein Avenue in West Nyack, washing away a neighborhood’s worth of pricey and priceless items.
On Monday, the residents of Klein and surrounding streets made their way back to their homes after their mandatory evacuation to start cleaning up one of the hardest hit areas in Rockland during the storm.
As soon as you turn on Klein, you see a large tree knocked over, roots ripped from the ground. And the wreckage from the storm only increases as you make your way further down the street.
Eventually, you’ll reach a part of the street where it looks like bulk trash day. Each lawn is covered with things ruined from the flooding. Everything from TVs to entire couches to carpet to a statue of a knight’s suit of armor.
The area where the residents really start covering their lawns with their ex-basements are the ones closest to openings where you can see the retention pond adjacent to Klein. Due to heavy rain during the storm, water gushed over the berm that surrounds the pond, flooding Klein.
Katz left his house at around midnight Sunday and returned around 9 a.m.
“Much to my amazement, I stayed at a house that actually didn’t have electricity and when I got here, I actually had electricity,” he said. “I had not a drop of water in my house.”
About a half-hour later, the water was just a foot from Katz’s house, and already about a foot-and-a-half high in the street. Katz tossed some more things in his truck and “punched it through the water, which was over my hood at that point,” he said.
When Katz returned later Sunday, he saw just how much destruction the five-foot-high flood did to the ground floor of his home. The upstairs was mostly fine. But he said he can see some structural damage to the home he moved into just three years ago and “100 percent renovated completely” from every wire and socket to the siding to the roof.
“It would’ve probably been cheaper to just build a new home,” Katz said.
While it was the first flood for Katz, some of his neighbors were a bit more experienced in preparing for floods since moving to Klein. and her husband Raymond have lived on Klein for 12 years, during which they’ve had three floods including Sunday’s.
“Saturday we put all our stuff up top,” Jane Stormes said. “We knew what was coming and we wanted to be safe.”
But even with the preparation they couldn’t save everything.
“Knowing what we have been through before, we knew what to put upstairs and what we couldn’t,” she said. “We have a pool table inside that’s too heavy.”
Still, Stormes estimated this was the least they’ve lost due to a flood so far.
“Last time, my sister was living with us at that time, someone was living in that space,” said said of her home’s ground level. “We’re not living in that space this time except for recreational stuff, so we were able to get a lot of stuff upstairs. Minimal loss, thank goodness.”
Even though it was the least they’ve lost to a flood, Stormes said Sunday’s was “bigger than any other one, the biggest one” they’ve seen since moving onto Klein.
Ciaran Timoney agreed. Timoney, another Klein resident, has lived on the street since 1978.
“This is the worst in a sense that the quickness in which it came and the amount of water that was able to get into the houses,” he said.
Timoney didn’t follow the evacuation, instead checking the pond around 6 a.m. Sunday morning, and everything seemed fine. Timoney went out to eat, came back to the house and around 10 a.m. checked again.
“I noticed the water in the pond was starting to come up on the yards over there,” he said. “And within a half-hour it was into the houses, that quickly.”
Timoney had a finished basement he had to rip all of the carpet out of, and his painted walls are now tattered. There’s a line about five feet high in his basement were the water went up to, and one room down there has brick walls where the bricks five feet up from the floor are now a much darker color than those above them thanks to the flood.
For many, the next step is sorting through insurance issues. Some people put signs up on their piles of garbage that read “Don’t touch” or something similar, in hopes nobody will sort through their garbage and remove it before they can show their insurance agents what was destroyed in the flood.
Raymond Stormes put his sign on a door that came off the hinges, using pink spray paint to write “Do not touch please.”
At around 7 p.m., all that was left for Timoney to do was brush the remaining water out of his driveway. He said he had about 10-15 people come over earlier in the day to help clean up. And that seemed true for a lot of Klein residents. There didn’t seem to be anyone clearing out a house alone. Everyone had help, whether from friends or family or neighbors. Each house had at least three or four people cleaning up.
Katz had friends coming throughout the day to help him clear out, which helped the process not only in making it go faster but his friends also made him laugh while they cleaned out his house. Still, there was no denying how Katz felt.
“For the record,” he said, “this sucks.”