I was away from Albany for a little more than a week, and in that time the area experienced two earthquakes -- the big one with the Virginia epicenter and a little one with an Altamont, NY epicenter -- and the after-effects of Irene. The first earthquake jolted people but didn't do any damage (at least around here) and the second one seems to have slipped by without much notice, but Irene has done horrific damage and may do still more: at the time of this writing, water levels in several New Jersey and Connecticut waterways are still rising and new evacuations have been ordered.
Eight New Yorkers -- including the wife of a former colleague -- are dead, and more than thirty people in eleven other states have lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are still without power, and an estimated 500 homes have been destroyed. Prattsville, Maplecrest, Windham, Margaretville, and several other Catskills communities have suffered grievous damage, as have Keene and several other Adirondack communities. Flood waters entered Schenectady's Stockade District, which features homes built by Dutch settlers and their immediate descendants, and several historic neighborhoods in Troy. Roads and bridges throughout central and eastern New York are washed out or under water. The historic Blenheim Bridge in Schoharie County, which was until Sunday the longest covered bridge in the world, is among the casualties.
At present, several communities in New York and Vermont have lost all roads linking them to the outside world; the National Guard is airlifting essential supplies to several of the affected Vermont localities. Pervasive road and bridge closures make travel difficult if not impossible, and it may be weeks before anyone can truly assess the extent of the damage.
New York cultural heritage institutions affected by this disaster should be aware of the following resources:
- The New York State Archives and New York State Library have created a special Web page that outlines the services that they can provide to libraries, state agencies, local governments, and other entities affected by Irene. The State Archives and State Library are also responsible for gathering information about disasters affecting cultural heritage institutions and can point to additional resources. Both institutions can be reached by phone or via e-mail.
- The Library of Congress has published an online guide to recovering from floods and other water disasters; of particular note are videos showing how to clean CD's and audio and video cassettes that have been immersed in flood water.
- Heritage Preservation has posted a 10-minute video outlining how to recover materials affected by water-based disasters and other helpful resources.
- The Library of Congress has published a guide to salvaging and preserving family history materials affected by various types of disasters.
- The Heritage Preservation video about recovering from floods and other water disasters contains a lot of good advice for anyone seeking to save water-damaged materials. Heritage Preservation has also compiled a handy list of links for people seeking to save family treasures damaged by disaster.