Local officials say the money is another step in the long recovery effort. They also praised Cuomo for his response and leadership after the storm.
Last August, when Tropical Storm Irne hit, Angie Cook, her son Caleb and daughter Hallie were hanging out at home in Keene when the river began to rise. "We were actually at our house making salsa and playing Monopoly, the kids were playing monopoly," Angie recalled. "We suddenly realized that we were surrounded by water. We had to leave, so we evacuated instantly. We ran in water up to our calves, got in our car, and fled to our good friends up on Baxter Mountain."
They weren't alone. Across the eastern Adirondacks, whole neighborhoods were hit by surging water as rivers rose and ran down the middle of streets and through basements.
During a visit to Keene Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo reflected on the power of Irene. "Streams and brooks just rose up and consumed buildings and streets and dams. People's lives washed away, the old Keene fire house cut in half." A year after the storm, Cuomo announced that the state will kick in roughly $640,000 to help rebuild that fire hall, making up funds that weren't provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Cuomo visited the Adirondacks repeatedly after the storm and says he was inspired by what he saw here: "People came together. And the heroism of people. And the selflessness of people. And the spirit of community that was alive and well and present. And people doing one for another like you can't even imagine."
Cuomo in turn won strong praise from local leaders including Keene town supervisor Bill Ferrebee, who said that in the dark weeks after the storm the North Country needed strong leadership from Albany. "He returned to the North Country for the reopening of Rt. 73, which was repaired ahead of schedule due to the dedication of the New York state DOT. He continued to honor his commitment to help us rebuild our communities, revitalize our businesses and reconstruct our homes."
Ferrebee acknowledged that the recovery from Irene isn't over. But he drew a sharp contrast between Wednesday's ceremony under gorgeous blue skies and the bitter mood on the day of the storm. "As I stand here this afternoon and I look out at the people gathered here today, I see so many of the same faces that I saw a year ago. But today there are different expressions on these faces. A year ago there were faces of fear, confusion and disbelief about what had just happened to our town. The question from all was what do we do now? Where do we go? Not knowing how to rebuild or even where to start."
For many families, rebuilding has been slow and painful and expensive. Angie Cook and her family had to live with friends and neighbors for nine months. But in May, she says, they were able to move back into their refurbished home.
"It's better than it ever was. The silver lining in the whole situation is that we're back in a home that's nicer and warmer. It's not finished yet, but we're going to be better off." Thanks to this latest infusion of cash from Governor Cuomo, Keene's fire squad will also have a new home soon—one that sits high up on safe ground.