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Road closures delay travel to, from Lake Placid

August 31, 2011
By MARGARET MORAN - For the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (

LAKE PLACID - Sunday's Tropical Storm Irene had a huge impact on roads in the area and, as a result, caused some headaches for drivers.

A number of roads and bridges sustained damage and have closed due to flooding and washouts caused by the storm's torrential downpour.

Around Lake Placid, Adirondack Loj Road is closed, River Road is closed from Mountain Lake Children's Residence to state Route 86, and state Route 73 to Keene is only open to one lane of traffic at the bridge near the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, according to the Essex County website on Tuesday afternoon.

Article Photos

The West Branch of the AuSable River peeled away pavement from River Road in Lake Placid Sunday, as seen Monday morning.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

Route 86 to Wilmington was previously closed but has since opened up.

These closures are subject to change, "with facilities being opened or closed as water rises or recedes and structural evaluations are completed," the the state Department of Transportation said in a press release.

North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi said the damage to the area could cost millions of dollars to fix. North Elba declared a state of emergency at 2 p.m. on Sunday in conjunction with Essex County, Politi said.

"We're hoping that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds can be utilized to offset the cost of improvements to the infrastructure," Politi said. "The damage is worse than the spring."

Richard Feldman, chairman of Lake Placid's horse shows, sustained some damage to his barn's field, located on River Road.

"The field damage is beyond anything I have ever seen," he said.

He said he lost the immediate use of three paddocks, a greenhouse, at least a mile of fencing and some land due to the river.

"As far as the barn and horses, they survived it perfectly along with four guest horses that we are boarding that belong to the Trevors, who are neighbors on our road, and we were glad to do it as they were swamped."

Feldman credited Larry Gibbons, manager of Woodlea Farms, for how well the barn held up against the storm.

Feldman was also amazed by how well the North Elba Show Grounds held up.

"We could run that horse show today," he said. "The grounds are absolutely perfect, and all the money we put in all through the years shows up unbelievably now."

In front of the Show Grounds, a line of vehicles could be seen idling on Monday, waiting to get across the bridge near the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.

In that line around noon was the Leonard family from New York City.

They said they had been staying in the Adirondak Loj but came to Lake Placid when the weather got bad on Sunday. When they tried to return to the Loj later that night, they found out a bridge had been completely destroyed by flooding.

"We're worried that the road might not open up for days, preventing us from getting our gear," Tom Leonard said.

If need be, they said they were prepared to leave their things behind and pick them up at a later date in order to arrive back to New York City by Tuesday evening.

Other visitors also experienced difficulties due to the area's road closures.

Sharon and Mark McGhee, of Methuen, Mass., who made the trip up to Lake Placid on Monday, said what is normally a five-hour drive up here took them eight hours due to the direct roadways into the village being closed.

"I couldn't get to 86 or 73, so we had to take (Interstate) 87 to (state Route) 3," Mark said. "We went out of our way. ... Having all these road closures has been very stressful."

Steven, Janice and Kayla Hill, of Oradell, N.J., had the opposite problem the McGhees had; they could not get out of Lake Placid to go back home.

"In a sense, we can't get home, mainly because of the closed roadways," Steven said.

Janice said the family planned to leave Saturday but never made it.

"We knew the storm was coming, but we weren't anticipating the calamity it ended up becoming," Steven said.

Depending on the roads, they said they would try to get back home Tuesday.

"We can't think of a nicer place to be stuck," Steven said.

Another visitor mentioned having trouble getting around town on Monday due to the road closures.

"We're actually camping at the KOA, so we have to drive 30 miles around to get to downtown Lake Placid," said Ed Stone, of Jamesville. "So it's a pretty long loop."

Efforts to clean up and repair roadways have already gotten under way, according to both Politi and Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Torry Hoffman.

"We were out most of the night (Sunday), helping to remove trees out of the roadway, debris and rescue some people off of River Road," Hoffman said.

Politi said on Tuesday that the damage to River Road, which mostly consists of shoulder erosion and peeled-up pavement, is being worked on.

He also mentioned that the county hired a private contractor to try to build a temporary lane for Adirondack Loj Road. The road would not be open for traffic but would be used to let 15 stranded vehicles leave the Adirondak Loj.

"We've had a lot of damage," Politi said. "This was a bad storm. ... I've never seen weather like this before, and I'm a native. Mother Nature is not happy."



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