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In upstate NY, spotty recovery from Irene

KEENE -- It's been three months since Tropical Storm Irene roared through this North Country community. Some things have gotten back on track remarkably fast.

Drive along Route 73 and you'll see few obvious signs of flood wreckage. Most of the roadside homes have been repaired, cleaned up or removed, and there is little visible debris.

But dig a little deeper and you'll discover lingering questions such as this: Where have all the bearskins gone? Or 17 miles north in Au Sable Forks: How long will it be before the folks in the village have to worry about their fire hose freezing? It currently serves as a makeshift water line for about 650 homes.

"No one brought in bears this year," observed Bud Pisarchia, who with his wife, Nancy, runs a gift store, Adirondack Reflections, and a taxidermy shop in Keene.

For years, hunters have taken bears to Pisarchia's shop, where he would turn the hides into rugs and give the meat to needy local residents.

Across the street, Keene Supervisor William Ferebee is grappling with bureaucracy.

Several residents whose homes were destroyed and who are in flood-prone areas want to participate in a buyout program in which the state and federal government will purchase their houses, allowing them to rebuild on higher ground. But the program could easily take a year to get off the ground.

Twenty minutes to the north Jay Town Supervisor Randall Douglas is working on just having running water.

The municipal water line that ran under the Ausable River and supplies the villages of Au Sable Forks and nearby Black Brook was destroyed by Irene.

Since then, drillers were having problems laying a new line because of the way the flooding changed the riverbed's geology.

To make do, they've coupled together a series of fire hoses from their water tank across the river and laid them across a bridge. Soon, before the cold weather settles in for good, they'll have to get a temporary heated pipe on the bridge to supply the villages.

Still, with some exceptions, the tourist-dependent businesses along Route 73 appeared to have been cleaned up and gotten back on line quickly.

"The town has basically come back," said Vinny McClelland, owner of The Mountaineer outdoor equipment store.

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