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In Conklin, some rebuild, others walk away after flood

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: In Conklin, some rebuild, others walk away after flood
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Just five years after water inundated much of the Southern Tier in 2006, Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc once again. YNN's Chris Whalen finishes our look back on the areas hit hardest in 2011, in Conklin, where waters devastated the area twice.

CONKLIN, N.Y. -- Picture this: a photographer has operated his business in the same spot for 20 years, never having a problem with weather.

"In '06 they said that we're expecting some high water, being that we never ever got flooded, high water to us might have been a couple of inches or something like that," said Jim Pavlik, who runs his own photography studio.

Pavlik thought he was well-prepared by moving some things in his Conklin business off the floor. Little did he know he would soon find out the true definition of high water.

"We had four feet. So, we lost a lot of equipment, not only props, backgrounds, but computers, some camera equipment," Pavlik said.

Pavlik was able to find a temporary location within a month of the '06 disaster. Four months after the waters receded, he was up and running in his Conklin Road studio.

Fast forward five years, Tropical Storm Lee stalls over the Southern Tier and a familiar scene starts to play out once again. This time around, Pavlik saw a little less water, three and a half feet, and was better prepared for it. He didn't lose much equipment, but was out of his studio for six months. During that time he decided enough was enough, and moved to a new location in Chenango Bridge.

"We honestly felt, and I still feel this way, that it's going to happen again. Whether it's one year, whether it's ten years, whether it's 20 years, I didn't want to have to go home and be on edge wondering how my business is doing," Pavlik said.

Just down the road, the Helene Yelverton Dance Studio in Conklin saw a similar situation in both 2006 and 2011. After more than 50 years of teaching dance in Conklin, Yelverton decided that after two major floods, she had had enough and decided to retire. But, the closing of Yelverton's doors opened a new one for one of her former students.

"A lot of my students, both past and present, were very devastated over the loss of this place, including myself. It was our home away from home, and to not have it anymore was devastating. So, at that time, I thought I had no better chance than right now to pick up and start this business up in our home," said Stephanie Surowka.

The new Conklin Dance Academy sits just about 100 yards from the Susquehanna River, which means any flooding, minor or major is likely going to affect the studio, which is something Surowka knows and is ready for.

"It's a huge risk at this point in my life to start this business in a flood-prone vicinity, something that's so close to the river that's flooded so many times. However, I feel pretty prepared should waters rise," Surowka said.

Preparedness is key going forward. With two disasters just five years apart, many believe the Southern Tier could be in store for more flooding in the future.

Debbie Preston served as Conklin Town Supervisor during both floods, and now as County Executive, wants to make sure flood mitigation continues to be a top priority.

"You can drive down the main roads of any of our municipalities in Broome County and say 'yeah, it looks okay,' but why don't you go down the side streets and look and see because it really isn't okay. We still have a lot of issues out there and people are still trying to deal with these issues," Preston said.

Each person dealing in different ways, but everyone continuing to rebuild and heal. Waiting, wondering if they'll be tested again.

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