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Franklin County emergency services coordinator Rick Provost in Tupper Lake with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens), state environmental facilities head Matt Driscoll, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, and  Tupper Lake Supervisor Roger Amell.
Franklin County emergency services coordinator Rick Provost in Tupper Lake with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens), state environmental facilities head Matt Driscoll, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, and Tupper Lake Supervisor Roger Amell.

Officials scramble to assess flood damage

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Flooding in parts of the North Country is expected to get worse before it gets better.

And even though water levels continue to fluctuate, state and local officials are trying to get a handle on how much damage has occurred so far.

In Saranac Lake two bridges that have been closed for more than a week were reopened early this morning. Village Manager John Sweeney says water levels dropped by about three inches overnight. Sweeney says county inspectors found no problems with any of the bridges in the village yesterday.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Administration - or FEMA - were in Saranac Lake Thursday as well. Sweeney says they were focused on evaluating the state of public infrastructure, and may begin looking at some private properties today.

Meanwhile, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens toured flood ravaged neighborhoods in Tupper Lake.

Chris Morris was there and has this report...

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A home on Demars Boulevard. (Photos: Chris Morris)

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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With village police cruisers leading the way, Commissioner Martens got a firsthand look at just how much damage has occurred in Tupper Lake over the last week.

Homes on Cedar Street and Water Street are still surrounded by up to a foot of water in some places. On Demars Boulevard, debris is scattered across yards and streets where floodwaters have receded.

The municipal park, home of the Tupper Lake Woodsmen Days and a popular gathering spot during the summer, is completely underwater.

Martens says the state will do everything in its power to help clean up, especially with the busy tourist season drawing near.

“We’re coming into a very important season here in the North Country – the tourists are going to be back soon and getting back to normal as quickly as possibly is our first order of business,” he said.

This trip was ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom Martens reported back to late last night.

“What we really want to do is first see it, and then hear from the people who have their feet on the ground in the community to figure out what we can do on a state level to help,” he said.

So far, damage is estimated at over $10 million in Franklin County. Officials like Rick Provost of Franklin County’s Department of Emergency Service say those figures will continue to increase in the coming weeks.

“I see some paperwork that says we’re at $10.2 million, and I expect that to go up because we’re just now getting out and seeing some stuff that was previously covered by water,” he said.

Tupper Lake Mayor Mickey Desmarais says the village needs help from the state.

“Tupper Lake is strong, we’re resilient, but we’re not shatterproof,” he said. “As you see, it’s taken its toll on these people who’ve had to move out of there homes. It’s taken its toll physically, mentally, and obviously financially.”

Joining Martens on his tour of Tupper Lake was Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, who says she’s logged some long hours traveling the North Country and witnessing what she says is one of the worse disasters she’s seen.

“It’s scary, it’s disheartening, but the people are strong, and as the mayor said, everybody is pretty resilient,” she said.

Martens was joined by Matt Driscoll, president of the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation. Both men note that DEC structures, like the Lows dams above Tupper Lake, have been inspected and are structurally sound.

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