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[Updated] Emotions flood out with questions, complaints

Tonko hosts Q&A meeting for flood victims in Rotterdam Junction

Congressman Paul Tonko hosted a "town hall" style meeting at the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department on Wednesday, Sept. 28, with residents often sharing heated comments. Tonko addressed concerns well after sunset, as seen through a window on one of the department's garage doors.

Congressman Paul Tonko hosted a "town hall" style meeting at the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department on Wednesday, Sept. 28, with residents often sharing heated comments. Tonko addressed concerns well after sunset, as seen through a window on one of the department's garage doors. Photo by John Purcell.

— “The police stopped him and said, ‘No, no, no, we were there and nobody answered the door,’” said Torres.

Her son continued to plead, and eventually decided to take matters into his own hands.

“My son swam down the street. He climbed on my parents’ neighbor’s garage, jumped in the water again, swam up to my parents’ roof, went in through the window, went downstairs to get to my parents, which were up to their waist in water,” Torres said.

She said her son moved them upstairs and grabbed a TV and whatever else he could salvage, but soon enough the refrigerator was floating up to the ceiling.

“My parents would have drowned that day, so what I want to say to the Police Department, I know things were crazy that day, but it is not acceptable to say, ‘We knocked on their door,’” Torres said. “I just want that to be a learning experience so that they can review their policies.”

Opening the flood gates

Howard Goebel, representative from the state Canal Corporation, dealt with a smattering of questions on what preparations were or weren’t completed before the flooding.

He said the dam system on the Mohawk has two sets to the gate system, an upper and lower pan, but claimed each of the upper pans was raised before flooding. Quickly residents chimed in saying the gates weren’t raised as Goebel continued his response.

“As the water levels rose, we opened more and more gates until we had the whole system opened,” said Goebel.

A shout of “You’re wrong!” jutted out in the crowd before Tonko quickly restored order.

Goebel said the lower gates weren’t opened because they can’t be opened. Since the canal was built in the early 1900s the lower gates can’t be opened, he said.

“The only time [the lower gates] are ever brought out is when the system is drained, because the system isn’t capable of raising those gates with water flowing over the top of them,” said Goebel.

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