In theory, seventy-five percent of the village of Owego New York is in a 100-year flood zone. That theory has been put to the test more than once. In 2011, it was Tropical Storm Lee, which devastated Owego, flooding 75% of the village in a 500-year storm.
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, Dave Nicosia, reported the stalled out storm dumping up to 12 inches of rain in Conklin, Binghamton, and Owego. Syracuse.com reported, “In Owego, the river rose from 17 feet to 38 feet between 6 a.m. Sept. 7 and 6 a.m. Sept. 8. Then the gauge that measures the surge broke, but the river kept rising.”
“The Susquehanna River came up so fast. I have never seen a river rise so quickly,” Nicosia said. “And it went over the top of the levies in many of our towns and cities along the Susquehanna in the Twin Tiers.”– Dave Nicosia, Meteorologist
Julie Nucci and her then partner (now husband), Jim Overhiser, had fairly recently moved into their 170-year old home in Owego when Lee hit and it was inhabitable when the storm was done. They decided to rebuild, but this time make it an elevated home. In an interview with WSKG, Julie noted that “neither she nor the 200-year-old home could take [that kind of flooding] again.”
Julie also felt her community couldn’t go through that again and the community responded by appointing her as the Flood Resiliency Coordinator for Owego, an unpaid position. Describing this as her side passion project, Julie said she had realized that small governments do not have the resources to deal with the level of disaster that struck Owego, and so she’s filling the void.
Julie partnered with Jayme Breschard, Senior Managing Community Planner, Climate Action Specialist with Barton & Loguidice. Their first priority was to have the village board of Owego join the NYS Climate Smart Community program. They are at work doing research on how to find funding and make their case.
Ahead lie many projects in addition to this CSC program. Having documented the process of elevating her home, and sharing that information with the state Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Julie is contributing to guidelines that are being developed for historic homes that need elevation. Armed with that knowledge and love for her community, Julie wants to save the unique historic community by elevating everyone. Working with state policies, the Clean Water Act, Risk Rating 2.0 flood insurance changes and how the Climate Smart Community program will be implemented, Residents of the Village of Owego are indeed full steam ahead.
Written by Michele Gielis
For more information:
Tioga County Flood Mitigation Project Now Complete, WENY News, June 2022
FEMA’s new flood insurance system is sinking waterfront homeowners. That might be the point., Grist, April 2022
Remembering Lee Floods, A Test Of Resiliency And Community In Owego, WSKG-PBS, Sept. 2021
Southern Tier – Village of Owego selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative – March 2019
Above the flood: Historic Owego house raised, Press Connects, Dec. 2015
Elevation or Relocation of Homes, Halting Bad Development
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