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Rescues, places of refuge mark aftermath of Irene in New York town

By the CNN Wire Staff
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NY town 'washed away' by Irene
  • NEW: Police helicopter rescues 21 people stranded in a house cut off by floodwaters
  • NEW: Others find shelter at a Christian center
  • NEW: "There are some here that have nothing to go back to," a center official says
  • County official: 87 people stranded in Prattsville were rescued Sunday

New York (CNN) -- It took four trips by a state police helicopter, but 21 people who had been stranded by post-Irene floodwaters in a Prattsville, New York, house were rescued Monday without incident, a local official said.

The group included four young children and a woman who appeared to be about five months pregnant, according to Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden.

The group was stranded at a house that was cut off when all the bridges near it were washed out after torrential rains flooded homes and businesses and left the Catskill Mountains town of Prattsville largely cut off from the outside world.

Another group of some 60 people took shelter during the storm at the Huntersfield Christian Training Center in Prattsville, and about 40 people remained there Monday night. Some in the group were able to head home on Monday, according to George Williams, youth leader at the center, but for others such a return would have to wait.

"We're in safe ground so that's why we're a refuge for those," Williams said.

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"We have a number of people that have gone back to their homes, but we understand that there is a lot of, at your own risk, where people are entering their homes and they believe that they're sound ... but some homes have shifted ... and there's just a lot of cleanup to do," he added.

"There are some here that have nothing to go back to, so they don't know how long it's going to be."

The shelter, which Williams said was about five or six miles from Prattsville's main street, had power generators and enough water for those there to swap it for food from nearby residents. People from the neighboring town of Windham brought food and clothes for those at the shelter, Williams said.

Emergency workers rescued 87 people from the Prattsville area on Sunday, including 25 people who were stranded at a motel for hours after 70 mph wind gusts grounded aircraft.

The area flooded when Schoharie Creek rose more than 15 feet in less than 12 hours and intense rainfall shedding off the Catskills sent a volume of water greater than that of Niagara Falls -- both the American and Canadian sides -- crashing through town, Groden said.

Elsie Stuppert, an employee of the Hideaway Hotel in Prattsville, said Monday the situation was dire.

"People can't go home. They have nothing, floors all mud, car on top of the deck. They've lost everything," she said.

The hotel sheltered about 35 or 40 people Sunday night, and also served as a makeshift command post for rescue personnel.

The town had been filled with vacationers, as well as people who headed to vacation homes in the area as they heeded warnings to evacuate parts of New York that forecasters had expected to bear the brunt of Irene's impact, said Williams, from the Huntersfield center.

"They had come up to escape the storm only to find its worst here," he said.

CNN's Nina Golgowski, Maria P. White and Katie Silver contributed to this report.