June 2012
(in subscribed newsletter, not here:  list of boarding houses, copies of two Titus articles from Daily Mail, copies of 1994 Sunny Hill Farm inserts)


A pleasant evening awaited the June meeting, with 30-35 attending Professor Titus’s lecture about Hurricane Irene and about the contributors to such a high level of devastation. In attendance, from our regulars, were: Kathie Williams (yeay, twice this year!), Christine Mickelsen, Dot Blenis, Stephanie Ingalls, Orrin and Shirley Stevens, Bob and Marie Shaw, and Don & Debra Teator. Others who are not regulars but I caught names were: Tim & Cathy Broder, Robert & Johanne Titus, Tom and Joan Sattlerlee, Dennis and Tom Murphy, the Ryndaks (Barbara nee Wing was a neighbor of mine many moons ago), Phil Hoyt (?), George Wood (?), and several more whose names were more than my brain could hold on to. If I forgot you, remind me and I’ll correct it for the next newsletter.

            To be honest, I am pleased to see a larger than usual turnout, and, at the same time, I am trying to adjust so that all are served as well as I can muster.

I introduced Senior Full Professor Robert Titus, of Hartwick College, who contributes to Kaatskill Life, the Daily Mail, the Woodstock Times, and more. I’m not sure if I embarrassed him or me more, with the public unveiling of my collection of his 170 weekly articles in the Daily Mail, spanning over three years now. (There were some chuckles from the audience.)

            Robert started with the local damage along the Catskill Creek in Freehold, a perspective from which he and Johanne safely sat above (I am happy because if the water ever reaches his house, I will have abandoned home a long time before!). Water blocked access to the road for almost a mile, from the Matthews’ residence until past Story’s Nursery.

            Robert than focused mostly on the Catskills towns and some Schoharie Valley – Windham, Prattville, Middleburgh, Schoharie, Gilboa, Breakabeen, Blenheim, Margaretville, Palenville, Delhi, Laurens, and more.

            The first few slides graphically showed the bowls these mountaintop towns sit in, these bowls acting as natural water collectors and distributors.

            The next slides showed the early history of town settlements. Many of them set on large alluvial fans from the big streams entering these glacial valleys/bowls, illustrated especially by Windham, Prattsville, Middleburgh and Schoharie.

            And then, the water hose theory. Robert illustrated by having us picture what we do with a garden hose when we want to pressure-wash the house siding or our cars. We crimp or obstruct the flow of water to make it move faster and with more pressure.

            According to Robert, the same effect happens when huge waters come cascading down the stream. If there were no settlements on these alluvial fans, the stream would stretch its full width, with the water creating less damage.

            However, when part of the stream is filled with the alluvial fan (with the town sitting on it), the water is constricted and moves more quickly. When a foot of water is dumped within a few hours in these collecting bowls, the water not only backed up but it also picked up speed as it rushed around bridges, structures, and people’s lives, leading to the level of devastation that we saw.

            Some of the ‘miscellaneous’ slides showed the level of damage meted out on particular houses in the wrong place at the wrong time.

            Another section of Robert’s lecture focused on what could happen if the full brunt of the storm had hit elsewhere, with particular attention paid to Cooperstown .

            Robert fielded questions from the floor, ranging from asking about places he had not mentioned, comparisons to past storms, etc.

            One questioned involved the cleanup of streams whose courses seem to have irretrievably changed. Robert noted that a first impulse is to make a straight channel, raise high steep walls, and clean out the vegetation. When asked how fast water would move down this channel, we were forced to recognize that this first impulse needs to be thought through. He gave an example or two of better solutions, noting they take time and money, something that was not in great supply in September and October of last year.

            We thanked Robert for his sharing of his knowledge, and we proceeded to mingle and talk with others in the audience.

            Stephanie and Christine, again, were the refreshments committee and I cannot stress how appreciative I am of that effort. Thank you both so much. And others in the audience were appreciative. (This refreshments effort is part of the “adapting” I mentioned before; we rarely have refreshments but with large groups, it is a nice addition.)

Other notes:

One of the benefits of being a friend and neighbor of the Tituses is the donation to the Town Historian of a t-shirt that Robert calls his Rock Tour shirt, akin to the music rock star, with a listing of concert dates and places on the back. In this case, the geologist, by occupation, has a lecture tour, with the places and dates on the back. Wearing the shirt creates a few conversations wherever I go.

            Robert and I agreed that a free will donation would be taken to support the restoration process by the Zadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, our way of helping another local historical institution, and one that is in dire need.

            Although I know many of you have already given or helped, it was pleasing to see a total of $200 was collected, and has been sent on to Carolyn Bennett, director of the ZPM. On behalf of the Greenville Local History Group, I contributed to that amount, and a thank you goes to other contributors this evening: the Tituses, Broders, Murphys, Satterlees, Stevens, Stephanie, and Kathie. 

            The next meeting will feature my collecting efforts about the boarding houses in the Greenville area.

            Also included in this newsletter are two articles by Robert Titus related to the flood.