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When The Levee Breaks?


That percussive sound you can hear all over the Catskills right now – like a rapidly brushed snare drum accompanied by a lightly flexed ride cymbal as played by an orchestra of thousands – is not the tent caterpillars going about their business. Not any more. (They’re all drying up, dying up or busy turning into moths.) It’s the sound of several days’ rain-water pouring off the mountains, filling up the creeks, and furiously following gravity’s pull. The question round these parts is simple, and it is this: will the rain waters reach the Hudson River in time, or will the banks burst like they did last spring, when hundreds of local homes were flooded and dozens completely destroyed?

Driving home last night, I saw work crews checking the water depth at the bridge in Phoenicia, clearly trying to measure the scale of any impending calamity; I saw several side roads blocked off, and as I headed up Rte 214, occasionally stopping to take pictures of nature’s torrents (though I’d have been better off sampling the sound), I saw entire creek-side plains completely flooded. It’s astounding what just a few days rain can do to a mountain-base community.

Being that it was our wedding anniversary, I was also served a reminder just how mercurial nature can be: on June 26, 1993, the sun was shining, temperatures were pushing into the 90s, the air conditioning could not keep up with demand, and the many older people who attended were in extreme discomfort. Those who got married this past mid-summer weekend will have memories instead of umbrellas and galoshes and official photographs reluctantly taken indoors.

But in the midst of such inconsiderate storms, we should be grateful for small mercies: Bunny Wailer and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry may find it impossible to bury the hatchet (except in each other’s heads), but in provoking the cancellation of Sunday’s Reggae CariFest at Hunter Mountain, they did their fans a small service. After all, the performance of such sunny music on the steep slopes of a ski mountain in the midst of several days’ unrelenting rain would have guaranteed not ‘one love,’ but communal misery all round. Sometimes things happen for a reason.

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