We all watched the water rise, the power lines drop and the wind bluster. We all watched the clouds turn grey as more than 10 inches of water fell from the sky onto our homes, cars and lawns. Hurricane Irene left a clear and present mark on the New Paltz community last weekend, but for many it appears the storm is becoming a distant memory in our semester’s brief history.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The damage caused by this powerful storm stretches beyond a cancelled class or a flooded mailroom. This storm literally washed its way into people’s living rooms and set the course of many lives in completely new directions.
While there were no reported deaths from the storm in Ulster County, $1 billion worth of damage has been reported in New York and thousands of people were evacuated from their homes – including students who lived on the low-lying banks of the Wallkill River.
We at The New Paltz Oracle stress to our fellow students and campus community to stand up and help those who are still reeling from the effects of the storm.
It’s time for us to step out of our campus bubble and reach out to those in need right in our backyard. In New Paltz alone, people were left without power for days, pumpkin patches floated downriver, 140,000 acres of farmland were washed away and years of people’s lives changed forever.
This disaster struck in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – adding salt into the already gaping wound in New York’s upstate region.
On the Monday following the storm, about 124,000 residents — more than one-third of the people in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan residents — were left in the dark. In Ulster County, 5,487 people were still without power a week after Irene passed through the region and as of Sunday, 4,906 in Ulster County started their morning still without power.
On top of the power outages, between 500 and 600 homes in New York have been destroyed, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
These people share this wonderful region with us and our college-aged antics and as such we should extend an arm of help or donate an extra box of Ramen noodles to those who need them. They are not just anonymous faces that you don’t know. Many students and friends were affected by this storm and deserve your attention and help.
Currently there are multiple local options students and members of the campus community can attend and donate to help those still devastated by Irene’s wrath.
The Family of New Paltz, who have their office on North Chestnut Street, are accepting any donations that will directly go to those who are in need of food. Currently, they are asking for any combination of rice, pasta, tuna, soup, canned meat, chili, peanut butter and oatmeal, among others.
On Oct. 2, a pot luck at the Water Street Market will kick off a charity event that will culminate in a benefit concert on Oct. 16. Not only will students be giving back to the first responders, farmers and families directly affected by the storm, they will be able to enjoy local musicians showcasing their talent for a cause.
Finally, Queens Gallery is collecting canned food going to help those in need. You can contact them by calling 845-338-3468.
These simple steps would go a long way toward showing that students are not just a monthly addition to the community of New Paltz. While our days may have been without Internet and our shoes may have been soaked, there are some that share this town and village who need our help weathering the aftermath of this storm.