After Hurricane Irene slammed upstate New York last year, damaging thousands of homes and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, the image that endured from the disaster was a yellow and white Victorian home on Main Street in Prattsville that had been knocked from its foundation.
Left standing but tilted and hunched like an overmatched prize fighter clinging to the ropes after being hit too many times on the jaw, the house, owned by local lawyer David Rikard, became a symbol of the devastation wrought by what record experts branded a 500-year flood event.
One well-known artist of Americana, Robert Cepale, even conceived a painting of Rikard's house, coming up with a rendering that made it appear to be a sort of Noah's Ark wobbling atop a surge of water that gushed along Main Street during the storm.
Deemed to be a danger to the public, the house was condemned. A wrecking crew demolished it a day after Thanksgiving last year. Rikard still owns the now empty lot on the site where the house had been the office for his law practice. He said he thought about his options — and considered them again and again.
With Prattsville sitting on the western edge of the New York City's watershed region, Rikard, 54, said he concluded that there would be no guarantees that such a disaster could not happen again.
"As one guy here in town says, he should be 1,500 years old, because in the past 10 years he's lived through three 500-year floods," Rikard said.
Fortunate enough to have acquired flood insurance well in advance of Irene's arrival, Rikard could have collected on the policy and simply moved to higher ground. But after all his deliberations and after talking to his clients and neighbors, he said that he decided there was only one place where he wanted to continue his work: Prattsville.