As Water Recedes, Cleanup Of A Soupy Mess Begins New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says damage from Hurricane Irene flooding could total $1 billion. As the floodwaters recede, residents have begun the hard work of cleaning up in places like Schoharie County. Cindy and Jim Barber lost their house and vegetable crop when a nearby creek turned into a river.
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As Water Recedes, Cleanup Of A Soupy Mess Begins

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As Water Recedes, Cleanup Of A Soupy Mess Begins

As Water Recedes, Cleanup Of A Soupy Mess Begins

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. It's been three days since the remnants of Hurricane Irene left the tattered East Coast for Canada, but roughly two million people in the U.S. are still without electricity. Now that flood waters from Irene have mostly receded, residents are shoveling muck from their houses. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimates damage in his state at about a billion dollars.

Governor ANDREW CUOMO: Over 600 homes destroyed, six towns inundated, 150 major highways have been damaged.

SIEGEL: NPR's Jeff Brady begins our coverage from one of the hardest hit areas of New York state, Schoharie County, about an hour west of Albany.

CINDY BARBER: Come on in.

JEFF BRADY: Cindy Barber lives along Schoharie Creek, where she and her husband have a vegetable farm and a roadside stand. Earlier this week, the creek turned into a mile-wide river and left four feet of water in their home.

BARBER: Things came from one end of the house, floated on in to everyplace else. And then as the water went down, it swirled and everything that landed kind of tipped over.

BRADY: Insurance won't cover the damage. In a mud-filled basement, there's an annoying buzz, a smoke detector that's been going off for a couple of days now.


BRADY: When you're flooded out, minor annoyances aren't an issue. The Barbers are celebrating small victories, like a tractor that was submerged but still works.


JIM BARBER: Yeah, got a thumbs up on the tractor, so that's good.

BRADY: Jim Barber looks over to a shed that was full of fresh tomatoes before the storm. Now, it's a soupy mess.

BARBER: It's hard to describe. Looks kind of like chili, bean soup. It's a just a brown muddy mass with brown globes that are tomatoes with a few spots of orange showing through.


BRADY: As workers clean up the muddy tomatoes, we head out to survey the Barber's recently flooded fields.

BARBER: We have Swiss chard, completely destroyed. The late tomato crop, completely destroyed. Our fall cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, unharvestable. The crops are still there, but because they've been submerged, we won't be able to harvest those.

BRADY: Most in Barber's position would be checking with their local USDA Farm Service Agency for help. But Barber is the New York state director for that agency. He's constantly on the phone organizing relief efforts.

BARBER: We did get additional funds from our office in Washington to move people to the county offices that are most affected, just to get some extra personnel there to help process the claim forms.


BRADY: Back at the house, Cindy Barber is washing two tan coats soiled by mud.

BARBER: It was something my mother gave us and she's not around anymore. And there goes an emergency vehicle. But she's not around anymore and so the idea is, hey, I found both of them. So if I can rinse them out, maybe they'll go to great-grandchildren some day.

BRADY: That emergency vehicle likely was headed to a fire down the road. Jim Barber looks at smoke coming up over hill. He's heard a neighbor's barn is on fire.

BARBER: The hay that they had in the barn, when the bottom layers get wet, they heat and they didn't get it emptied out soon enough, so it evidently caught on fire. And an event like this, you can't put it out. I mean, water makes it worse.

BRADY: It must be sickening just to see that smoke.

BARBER: Everything since Sunday's been pretty sickening, so...

BRADY: Jeff Brady, NPR News in Schoharie County, New York.

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