After Irene And Lee, Families Still Displaced


Amy and Bill Wetsel’s house near the Schoharie Creek is still empty and stripped down to wall studs. More than 19 months after the deluge of Tropical Storm Irene, their family still pays rent on another house and still tries to figure out how to get back home.

“We’re at the end of our rope — emotionally, financially,” said Amy Wetsel, standing on a dirty patch of floor where the couple and their two sons used to eat.

Dozens of people in upstate New York have yet to return to a permanent home after the double whammy of tropical storms Irene and Lee in late August and September 2011.

Most people flooded out in the two storms are back where they lived or have moved on. But displaced residents remain scattered in hard-hit areas like the Catskill Mountains, the Southern Tier and the Schoharie Valley.

There are no exact numbers for people still displaced in New York, though it’s likely more than 100, based on advocate estimates.

In Schoharie, Suzanne Robinson-Parisi and her husband are still putting back together their family’s home where creek waters lapped up to the second floor and floated the barn onto the driveway. Local volunteers helped with the demolition and her husband works on the home in his spare time. But there’s just so much to do.

“There’s never enough time in the day,” she said.

Some people are waiting for buyouts. Work on some other homes started late because homeowners who planned on buyout offers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency reconsidered when they realized the offer would be less than they thought it would be, said Diana Chandler of Tioga Opportunities.

The number of people in FEMA trailers upstate was down to 13 this month from a high of 127. Because the 18-month window for the program ended, people living in the trailers have to pay rent starting this month.

Emily Morse and her husband started renting in nearby Windham rather than pay $792 a month for their trailer as they prepare land for a new home. Morse said they have been slowed down by red tape and the weather.

“It seems like you go five steps ahead and then back 10,” she said.

FEMA has approved $158 million for individuals and households in New York for the two storms. That does not include payments for people with flood insurance.

“There are no celebrities … for Irene victims,” Amy Wetsel said. “They forgot about us.”

“Basically, it’s a wait,” her husband, Bill, said. “It seems like it has been all along.”