State, Local, and Tribal Collaboration Successful in Enhancing Public Safety
State Task Force 2 and Local First Responders Conduct Over a Dozen Evacuations from Rising Flood Waters on the Salmon River
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today delivered an update on the state's response to ice jams that have clogged rivers and streams across the state, including the Great Chazy, St. Regis, and Salmon Rivers. Over the past several days, state and local personnel have worked around the clock to mitigate flooding in communities at risk due to ice jams, primarily in Clinton and Franklin Counties and the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
"Communication and coordination between all levels of government continues to be crucial to reducing the impact of extreme weather on our communities," said Governor Cuomo. "We must accept this new normal and do everything in our power to ensure that our preparation, response, and recovery efforts keep people safe and minimize the damage that Mother Nature can produce."
Relief efforts continued this week as crews and equipment provided by the New York State Department of Transportation cleared ice jams along the Great Chazy River in the Village of Champlain in Clinton County, which have impacted the community since January. Excavators cleared ice jams along US Route 9 River Street and Elm Street, an area is prone to flooding due to its topography. Water levels in the area have since been stabilized and no further water rescues or evacuations have been required. The long arm excavators prevented significant property and infrastructure damage and will remain in the area as necessary to prevent additional ice jams.
Under the direction of Governor Cuomo in late January, Division of Homeland Security Services Commissioner Roger Parrino worked with the areas hardest hit by ice jams to offer assistance, including Franklin County. Commissioner Parrino immediately met with Franklin County Emergency Services Director Rick Provost and Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill to tour high risk areas, which resulted in DHSES pre-deploying a high axle vehicle to the North Country in anticipation of flooding caused by ice jams. The vehicle, capable of transporting up to 20 individuals through two to three feet of standing water, was utilized by the Divisions' Office of Fire Prevention and Control, who assisted Franklin County with high axle vehicle evacuations at the height of the flooding. These operations, coordinated with the Fort Covington and the Hogansburg/Akwasasne Fire Departments, resulted in one swift water rescue of an individual in Hogansburg, and the evacuation of a dozen residents from structures impacted by flooding.
Currently the state has deployed the following additional resources from several agencies to respond to and prepare for continuous flooding in the North Country:
- State Department of Transportation Long Arm Excavator (John Hill Rd)
- 16 DHSES' Office of Emergency Management and OFPC personnel with one high axle vehicle and one zodiac boat
- State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ranger Airboat and crew staged at Westville Fire Department
- State Police airboat is on standby in Clinton County ready for deployment
- State Department of Environmental Conservation 16-foot flat bottom outboard powered johnboat is staged at the Franklin 911 center
- State Department of Environmental Conservation 14-foot flat bottom outboard powered johnboat is staged at Franklin 911
DEC Environmental Conservation Officers are in Fort Covington to standby for possible deployment to Hogansburg to assist the county with evacuations as a swift water rescue asset utilizing a county owned zodiac type craft. The DEC jet boat team will be working with fire departments to access homes and evacuate as necessary, walking alongside zodiac-type boats in shallow water to access homes that were affected.
Additional state efforts include continuous assessments by state DOT on bridges impacted by high water levels, security details provided to evacuated areas and closed roadways of Fort Covington by State Police, and helicopter assessment fly-overs over waterways by the State Police Aviation Unit. The Department of Transportation currently has 123 large dump trucks, four graders, 31 large loaders, 18 pickups with plows, two snowblower-loaders, and four tow plows for use as needed in the North Country. Jersey road barriers and Aquadam deployed in January are still in place at the Malone Water Treatment Plant to lessen the impacts from flooding. Since mid-January, stage agencies have been monitoring up to 50 ice jams statewide.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino said, "I am grateful for the partnership between local, state and tribal officials to protect the communities they serve. This is an example of all levels of government coming together to keep their communities safe."
Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, "The work of our staff in the face of a potentially dangerous situation demonstrates how well the New York Responds system works. At the end of the day, we are neighbors helping neighbors and we are proud of the work we do to help New Yorkers every day."
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Directed by Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Environmental Conservation stands ready to respond to emergencies at a moment's notice, especially when people's lives may be at risk. "The boats we have provided as part of the state's multi-agency response in the Capital Region will allow emergency personnel to quickly reach people in distress, providing critical and timely assistance to those impacted by ice jams and flooding."
State Fire Administrator Skip Nerney said, "OFPC staff utilized one of our high-axle vehicles to help remove 12 individuals, including pets, from their homes affected by flood waters and deliver them to safety. Working closely with firefighters from the Hogansburg/Akwesasne and Fort Covington Fire Departments, we moved quickly to get people out of harm's way."
Franklin County Legislature Chairman Donald Dabiew said, "The fluctuating temperatures have contributed to dangerous situations across our county, causing significant damage and threatening our communities. I am especially grateful for the hard work and collaboration among our state and local partners in keeping our residents safe."
Fort Covington Town Supervisor Pat Manchester said, "Over the past several weeks, ice jams and severe flooding have really hit our community hard, damaging homes and putting residents well-being at risk. The state's resources and equipment have been instrumental in assisting our local fire and rescue personnel save lives."
Franklin County Emergency Services Director Rick Provost said, "The resources provided by New York State agencies have helped our local governments and first responders better protect our local communities. Commissioner Parrino has been very helpful with resource acquisition and coordination of response."
Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill said, "I truly appreciate all the assistance that the state has provided as it has greatly improved our response to the flooding. The High Axle vehicle and other assets have been put to good use. This incident is a fine example that partnerships and teamwork leads to success."
Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief of Police Matthew Rourke said, "I want to personally thank Governor Cuomo and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services for devoting a high-axle vehicle to assist our local first responders with evacuations in Akwesasne and Fort Covington. The vehicle has already proven to be an important asset in evacuating residents from flood areas, as one extraction has replaced five to six in previous vehicles. I also want to thank Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill for loaning his department's high-water vehicle to also help our community members. We appreciate the resources and welcome these partnerships that were established to help keep all of our communities safe."
Clinton County Legislature Chairman Harry McManus said, "I'm not only proud of the response by our state, county and local officials, but the resiliency of the residents of Underwood Estates during these difficult times. I personally want to thank the Governor for his quick response by making excavators available in the Town of Champlain to minimize the threat to homes along the Great Chazy River and for his continued support as we continue to work together to help those displaced by the flooding recover."
Clinton County Director of Emergency Services Eric Day said, "The timeliness of DOT's arrival was key to averting significant property damage. The system worked and I appreciate the willingness of DOT to be there in our time of need."