WALTON, N.Y. — In early September, residents evacuated their homes before flood water inundated the city with the help of Walton Central School District’s (CSD) transportation department.
In the past 15 years, floods have become a fairly frequent occurrence in Walton. Tracy Williams, transportation supervisor at Walton CSD, told SBF in an interview last week that major flooding took place in 1996 and 2006, with the latter resulting in the water level rising 6 to 7 feet.
In the most recent flood, which occurred on Sept. 8, the water in the center of town rose to 5 feet.
Each time, the school district’s transportation staff has provided evacuation assistance to the city’s fire departments. In the case of the September flood, two of the district’s bus drivers, Mac Dann and Dave Edwards, played a large role in this effort, as the rest of the bus drivers were working to protect their homes from water damage.
“Most of my drivers had come in to move the vehicles from the bus garage before the actual flooding happened,” Williams explained. “During the event, a lot of them had other things that they were tending to with their own homes. Everything was good where Mac’s and Dave’s houses were, and these are two guys who I can really rely on if I need them in a pinch.”
Because city and fire officials had notice that the water was going to enter the city, mandatory evacuations were implemented. Williams, Dann and Edwards were stationed at the local fire department with two school buses. They evacuated people who couldn’t get out without help — mostly elderly residents — and transported them to shelters that were set up at churches on higher ground.
“We moved people right up until midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning, and then a day later, when the water left, they came back and brought people back to the homes that they could get to,” Williams said.
Williams spoke highly of Dann and Edwards for their volunteerism, and for their overall work at the district.
“Mac and Dave enjoy doing this type of stuff, and they’re the type of people who, no matter what you ask of them, they’ll do it. They’re great drivers and great employees,” he said.
Moreover, although the water rose to the outer rim of the Walton CSD’s transportation facility parking lot during the flood, the facility itself didn’t sustain any damage.
“In 2006, during the last flood, we had 3 to 4 feet of water at the bus garage,” Williams said. “A lot of stuff was damaged at that time. We didn’t lose any vehicles — we got them out in time — but since then, we’ve rebuilt thanks to FEMA mitigation and New York State Education Department approvals. My office here is elevated 4 feet, and we have steps that go up to it so that if we do get water, it won’t be affected.”