Forecasted Rain in Mohawk Valley Increases Flooding Risk
Flood Watches Currently In Effect for Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Niagara, Northern Erie, Orleans and Wyoming Counties; Flood Warning In Effect for Southern Erie County
For Equipment Requests and Other Assistance, Local Governments Should Contact the State's 24/7 NYS Watch Center at 518-292-2200
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the deployment of numerous state assets responding to potential flooding at the CSX railroad bridge in Whitesboro. Following a week of intense winter weather, temperatures have spiked in New York which has significantly increased the risk for flooding throughout the state, especially stemming from ice jams. At the Governor's direction, state agencies have coordinated to pre-deploy assets at known flood-prone areas like the CSX bridge, which Governor Cuomo has demanded be rebuilt. With the forecast now calling for precipitation in addition to the warmer temperatures, additional assets have been deployed to this location to immediately respond and mitigate any flooding that may arise.
"With the recent spike in temperatures, we knew that the probability of ice jam flooding would increase significantly and the state pre-deployed assets to the most flood prone areas of the state," Governor Cuomo said. "The Whitesboro CSX bridge is one of the most commonly flooded areas of the state and with rain in the forecast, I am deploying additional resources to the area to ensure the safety and timeliness of any work that needs to be done."
During the Monday to Tuesday overnight hours, rain showers are likely after 12 a.m. in the Mohawk Valley with temperatures focused primarily in the low 40s. On Tuesday, rain and snow is possible before 3 p.m., with the possibility of snow showers before 4 p.m. Temperatures will be in the low 40s, falling to the low 30s by 5:00 p.m. While the total volume of precipitation is only expected to reach approximately one tenth of an inch at its most, anything in addition to the rapidly melting snow only increases the chances of flooding.
To help mitigate any additional problems that may arise at the CSX bridge, New York has personnel and equipment from multiple state agencies either on-site working or pre-staged at nearby locations ready to be deployed. This includes:
- 2 Long Stick Excavators
- 2 Dump Trucks
- 1 New York State Police Command Vehicle
- 1 Swift Water Rescue Team
- 2 Inflatable Motor Boats
- 2 Non-Motorized Rafts
- 1 High Axle Vehicle
- 3 Portable Lighting Units
- 2 100kw Generators
- 2 VMS Boards
- 1 Emergency Response Trailer
Much of the flooding at this location has historically been the result of ice jams which occur when pieces of floating ice obstruct a river or stream's flow. When temperatures rise, ice jams can break up, releasing water that was held back by the jam and cause flooding downstream. Flash flooding and ice jams can lead to significant property damage, potentially destroying homes. Rises in water level from snowmelt also have the potential to break up ice in creeks and rivers, which can then become jammed where there are constrictions in the river or creek channel, such as curves or bridges.
Ice jams will continue to be a concern for the rest of the state as well, as temperatures are expected to remain warm throughout Tuesday. Already, the National Weather Service has issued flood watches for Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Niagara, Northern Erie, Orleans and Wyoming Counties, as well as flood warning in effect for Southern Erie County. For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website.
State Agency Preparations
Department of Environmental Conservation
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) encourages municipal officials to immediately undertake local assessments of potential ice jams in flood-prone areas and remove any debris. In the event of an emergency, DEC stands ready to approve Emergency Authorizations to expedite approval of projects on an expedited basis in place of an individual permit. Generally, these authorizations can be issued within 24 hours. DEC approves Emergency Authorizations for situations that are deemed an emergency based on the immediate protection of life, health, general welfare, property, or natural resources. Additional information is available on the DEC website at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/96337.html. Emergency Authorizations are issued with suitable conditions to protect the environment.
DEC continues to work with partner agencies and localities throughout the State to respond to flooding and ice jams. DEC is deploying drones to assist with the assessment of ice jams. DEC experts are identifying flood-prone areas, including creeks and streams, where snowmelt and rain could cause damaging flooding. DEC is monitoring stream level forecasts and flood gauges on creeks, streams, and rivers to assess flooding risks and respond to potential flooding that would activate any of the 106 Flood Control Projects that DEC maintains and operates across New York State. In addition, DEC is monitoring wastewater treatment plants throughout the state based on risk conditions and staff are ready to respond to any emergencies caused by flooding.
For additional information about resources for local officials and emergency managers, visit the DEC website https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/115140.html.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is prepared to respond to requests for assistance with assets from its stockpiles, including:
- More than 730 generators
- Nearly 1,300 pumps
- More than two million sandbags
- 20 sandbaggers
- 6,771 feet of Aquadam
Department of Transportation
New York State Department of Transportation staff are on alert and working with State and local partners to respond to any flooding impacts immediately. Department staff are actively monitoring more than a dozen known problem areas and acting as necessary to mitigate flooding. Fourteen long-arm excavators are being strategically located throughout the state to help break up ice jams as temperatures continue to rise.
Earlier this month, the Department worked with its partners at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to assist the Village of Whitesboro in Oneida County when ice jams caused water to be swept over the banks of the Sauquoit Creek and impact a CSX rail bridge. While the waters have receded, it remains an area of concern and the Department is actively engaged with CSX and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on potential preventive measures to mitigate future flooding. Governor Cuomo recently issued a letter to CSX threatening legal action if the bridge is not rebuilt.
Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.
Thruway Authority staff are actively inspecting drainage systems are monitoring for potential flooding. Staff are prepared to respond to any flooding issues statewide with more than 669 operators and supervisors, small to medium sized excavators, plow/dump trucks, large loaders, and a number of portable VMS boards, portable light towers, smaller generators, smaller pumps and equipment hauling trailers, as well as signage and other traffic control devices available for any detours or closures.
The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app which is available to download for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. For real-time updates, motorists can follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.
New York Canal Corporation
The New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of NYPA, continues to communicate with hydropower entities along the state Canal System regarding changes in releases and conditions as well as developing hazards. The Canal Corporation has taken pre-emptive actions statewide to mitigate potential flood impacts throughout the system and staff is closely monitoring known ice jam locations including known locations along the Mohawk River.
The Canal Corporation has a contractor on standby to send to Erie Canal Locks 8-10 in Schenectady and Montgomery counties to remove accumulated ice jams adjacent to the locks if they were to occur.
New York State Police
State Troopers are assisting partner agencies by monitoring rivers and streams during regular patrols, and will report changes in conditions as warranted. All four-wheel drive vehicles are in service and all specialty vehicles, including snowmobiles, Utility Task Vehicles, and boats are staged and ready for use.
Below are flood preparation safety tips:
- Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
- Develop and practice a 'family escape' plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.
- Make an itemized list - as well as potentially photo and video documentation -- of all valuables including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
- Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers
- Plan what to do with your pets.
- Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.
- Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
- Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
- Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
- Check on your insurance coverage. Homeowners' insurance policies generally do not cover flood damages. Only flood insurance can protect your home against flood damages. You can purchase flood insurance whether or not you live in a mapped flood zone.
For a complete list of weather terms and preparation ideas before during and after a flood, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/flood/floodprepare.cfm.