Unification News for April 2005

Major Flood at New Hope Farms

by Lesa Ellanson

The weekend of April 2-3, the City of Port Jervis and the Town of Deerpark suffered major property damage and even loss of life when the Delaware and Neversink Rivers overflowed their banks. Deemed "the worst flood in 50 years," it occurred when heavy rains over a one-week period saturated grounds that were already soaked as a result of melting snows.

New Hope Farms Equestrian Park is located in the Town of Deerpark, situated directly on the Neversink River, less than 250 yards down a gently sloping hill. Although we are far from the river bank, the distance was quickly covered by the rapidly rising waters. The farm, which became a free refuge for animals that needed to be evacuated from threatened areas, was seriously threatened as the river began to crest.

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, the managers, Lowell and Lesa Ellanson, were told by the area's first responders that watershed from a nearby dam could potentially flood the barns and the main arena with a rise of over 7 feet of water. But far worse, a dam containing a major northeast reservoir was leaking and was in danger of bursting. The reservoir is over 15 miles long. Should that dam rupture, an area of over 50 square miles, including the New Hope Farms, was faced with the catastrophic likelihood that it may cease to exist, engulfed by flood waters over 20 feet high.

The local River Master keep us updated on an hourly basis, and the "worst case scenario" plan was discussed: We were to load up what we could, save our family and animals, and literally release all the remaining horses that could not be tailored to safety. The problem was we had over 80 horses to evacuate, only five horse trailers to contain 11 horses, and only one road on which we could escape. The call went out to local equine rescuers, our far-off neighbors that owned trailers and even a nearby racetrack. Yet, even though people wished to help, there was no way that they could arrive in time since all but one road was closed. That road was our only way out. We were to know our fate within the next two hours.

Following a few fateful phone calls, desperate prayers were offered: "Let this cup pass". The water continued to rise until around 2:00 p.m. but after an additional four feet and in two more hours, the river crested. Three hours later, the levels began to subside. By nightfall, the immediate danger had indeed passed. A special prayer meeting was held that night by the Ellansons with newly blessed horse trainers to give quiet thanks to Heavenly Father. We prayed for the soul of one unfortunate woman and two trapped horses whose lives were lost. But the crisis was truly over.

Two days later, when the governor of New York State, George Pataki, came to tour the damaged area, he had his helicopter pilot land at New Hope Farms. The Ellanson and Alves families helped the pilots keep watch over the helicopter until the governor's return. When he did return, he departed quickly but not before he promised to return again to follow up on the disaster.

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