• GERALDO AT LARGE STORM STORY GPS

      Flooding causes chaos in Prattsville, NY

      Today as thousands mop up the mess, thousands more pick up the pieces of lives left broken by ‘post tropical storm' Irene. Others find themselves forced to completely start over. That's the case in a tiny little town in the Catskill Mountains, measuring 19.6 square miles, named Prattsville. The scene is surreal. Residents are said to have lost everything. Houses were moved off their foundations, buildings were leveled. The banks are gone. The churches are gone. The town was swept away. Now, all that remains is debris and a blanket of mud as far as the eye can see.

      Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she plans on working with the HUD department on long-term housing issues as a result of Irene.

      Prattsville was first brought to our attention over the weekend by a close friend of Geraldo's who while watching one of the many tales of devastation to play out at the hand of Irene, realized that he knew her intended victims. They were his friends. He sprang into action and here's what we learned. 21 people were forced to seek shelter on top of Moore's Motel...stranded...they watched the flood waters rise around them.

      Residents use all terrain vehicles to move around the streets damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in Prattsville, NY

      The Motel's owners, Deborah and Stephen Baker, together with their four children and neighbors who the Bakers had invited into their motel for safety, were forced to retreat to the roof of their motel in order to escape certain death by drowning when the Gilboa Dam failed, sending a twenty-foot wall of water toward their property. As a result of the tragedy, they've lost everything-- house, motel, family cars, trucks (he is a builder of modular homes), and personal property.

      New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he expects damage in the state from Tropical Storm Irene to total $1 billion. He spoke Wednesday in Prattsville, a Catskills Mountain community that like many others was hard hit by the torrential rains and wind over the weekend, but was one of the first declared as "a presidential major disaster."

      They, like many more are destitute and homeless. After having spent a lifetime raising a family, helping in their community and building their businesses...they now have nothing but the clothes on their backs. And though they are now safe, they are not sound.

      President Obama has signed a declaration that qualifies eight New York counties for federal disaster assistance. Those counties are Albany, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Ulster and more counties may be added to that list.

      Prattsville and the Bakers are but one face in the crowd of victims left in Irene's wake. Their story needed to be told. All of your stories need to be told so that we may come together and bring aid to those most in need. So again, please, post your stories and those of your families, friends and neighbors.

      FEMA aid is expected to begin immediately. You may begin applying for assistance on Thursday by calling 1-800-621-FEMA, or by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov.