Urges homeowners to take precautions now
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today warned that rising temperatures over the weekend will contribute to a strong possibility of significant flooding in Western New York. Although the State is taking every precaution to prepare for a large amount of flooding, the specifics are not predictable, and homeowners should be ready for significant snow melt.
"New York is preparing for the worst-case scenario with these floods, and safety is our top priority," Governor Cuomo said. "Over the coming days, the warming weather will bring melting, which will bring rain, and water on top of so much snow will bring floods. I urge all New Yorkers to inform themselves and take every precaution to stay safe."
In anticipation of this flooding, the Governor has instructed state agencies to take every precaution with our local partners to prevent damage. New York is immediately bringing the following equipment to the area:
- 425 pumps and generators
- 55 boats and crew
- 3 helicopters
- 29 high-axle vehicles
- 180,000+ sandbags
Residents and businesses clearing sidewalks and driveways are encouraged to remove snow from street drains to enable runoff into storm sewers. Additionally, the state is repositioning its existing equipment in the region to help local partners with snow removal. This includes:
- 538 plows
- 149 dump trucks
- 107 front loaders
- 27 snow blowers
A Flood Watch is in effect from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning for the counties of Erie, Genesee and Wyoming. Smaller streams and creeks will be prone to flooding from snow melt, including creeks that flow through the Buffalo Metro area. Towns that received significant amounts of snow will also have potential for urban flooding from the snow melt.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is using FEMA flood plain maps to identify flood prone areas, including creeks and streams, where snow melt and rain could cause damaging flooding. DEC, in conjunction with the National Weather service, will monitor flood gages on creeks, streams and rivers in Western New York to assess flooding risks. DEC is also monitoring 13 wastewater treatment plants in Erie County and one in Wyoming County, based on risk conditions. Trained Environmental Conservation Officers are on hand to respond to emergencies.
The State Emergency Operations Center, which has been monitoring the storm since the Governor activated it on Monday evening, is staffed by a multitude of state agencies including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (with staff from the Office of Emergency Management as well as the Office of Fire Prevention and Control), Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Thruway, State Police, Public Service Commission and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and Office of General Services.
Home Flood Safety Information:
- If flooding of a home or business has already occurred or is about to occur, customers should contact their utility companies to have electricity and natural gas service turned off. In the event of flooding, customers should never attempt to turn off electricity and natural gas service. As a precaution prior to any flood, customers should check their basement drains to make sure they are clear and energized wires are off the floor.\
- Stay out of flooded basements. Energized wiring or outlets below the water line may pose a hazard; natural gas service in a flooded basement may also pose a danger.
- To have electricity service restored once flood waters have receded: Customers should contact an electrician to make sure that it is safe to have electricity service turned on before contacting their utility. If the main fuse box or circuit breaker box has been under water, it must be inspected by a certified electrical inspector before service can be restored. Someone must be present for service to be turned on, the basement must be free of water and the electrical panel must be clean and free of debris. Customers and contractors should never attempt to turn on electricity service.
- To have natural gas service restored once floodwaters have receded: If the natural gas meter and/or regulator were under water, customers must first contact their natural gas company. If any natural gas equipment (furnace, boiler, water heater, etc.) has been under water, customers need to contact a plumbing and heating contractor to have the equipment checked. Customers can then contact their natural gas company to have service restored. Customers and contractors should never attempt to turn on natural gas service.
Additional Safety Tips:
- If a gas odor is present, the customer should leave the premises immediately and then call the utility or 911 from a different location. Do not use any appliances or operate any electrical switches if a gas odor is present. Utility representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive emergency calls.
- Stay away from downed power lines. Even lines that appear “dead” can be deadly.
- Be extremely cautious when clearing snow off roofs. Also be alert to any signs that the snow load on structures could cause roofs to collapse.
Use caution and proper procedures when operating generators and temporary portable heating equipment:
- Locate your generator in a well-ventilated area. Never run it inside, even in your garage. Gasoline-powered generators produce carbon monoxide, and the fumes can be deadly.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator using heavy duty, properly grounded extension cords. Make sure that extension cords are not frayed or worn. Do not connect your power generator directly to your home's main fuse box or circuit panel.
- Limit the number of appliances you use to no more than the recommended wattage of the generator. Read all instructions carefully and follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Use the generator only when necessary, and don't overload it. Turn it off at night while you sleep and when you are away from home to avoid a possible fire hazard.
Emergency Contact Information
New York State Electric & Gas:
- To report electricity emergency or power outage, call (800) 572-1131
- To report natural gas emergency or odor of gas, call (800) 572-1121
National Fuel Gas:
- To report natural gas emergency or odor of gas, call (800) 444-3130 immediately
- Once any water has subsided, call (800) 365-3234, for company to test and restore service
- To report electricity emergency or power outage, call (800) 867-5222
- To report natural gas emergency or odor of gas, call (800) 892-2345
- For general questions about safety and service, call (800) 642-4272
Individuals in need of licensed plumbers and electricians can contact their local utility:
New York State Electric & Gas: (800) 572-1111
National Fuel Gas: (716) 686-6123
National Grid: (800) 642-4272
Important Flood Safety Information:
Act Now To Be Prepared:
- 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 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.
- Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts for information.
- If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly.
- If directed to a specific location, go there.
- Know where the shelters are located.
- Bring outside possessions inside the house or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, and other movable objects.
- Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.
- Leave early to avoid being marooned on flooded roads.
- Make sure you have enough fuel for your car.
- Follow recommended routes. DO NOT sightsee.
- As you travel, monitor NOAA Weather Radio and local radio broadcasts for the latest information.
- Watch for washed-out roads, earth-slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and falling or fallen objects.
- Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
- DO NOT attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
- DO NOT underestimate the destructive power of fast-moving water. Two feet of fast-moving flood water will float your car. Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
- If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.
The Department of Environmental Conservation advises owners of commercial and residential fuel oil tanks located in flood-prone areas to take precautions to minimize risk for flooding of the tank. Check tanks for the following (a tank contractor may be needed to check the tank and make any needed improvements):
- the tank should be protected from floating or toppling over by flood waters or high winds;
- the tank should be protected from falling limbs, floating debris, or high currents;
- connections to the tank (fill pipe, vent, gauge, bungs) should be water tight;
- if the fill port or top of the vent could be flooded, the cap to the fill pipe should be securely fastened and the vent pipe should be extended to above the worst case water level.
These precautions should also be taken for underground tanks or tanks in basements.
In the Event of an Oil Spill
If your home is affected by a flood that causes an oil spill in or near your home, you should contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Spill Hotline immediately at 1-800-457-7362 to report the spill.
In some cases, the oil mixes with the water that floods your home. If so, do NOT pump the water out into your yard. The oil may spread and contaminate other areas, including nearby wells, water bodies and homes.
If a layer of oil is on water in a basement, you can minimize the amount of oil spread on walls and floors and the amount of other damage to your property by removing the oil before pumping the water out.
- For an oil film, absorbent pads may be sufficient to collect the oil.
- For a thicker layer of oil, a vacuum truck may be necessary to skim the oil off the water.
Oil spills can also contaminate indoor air. The State Department of Health is available to answer questions at 518-402-7810 or 800-458-1158. After hours and on weekends, call 1-866-881-2809. Oil-contaminated debris or material contaminated with other petroleum products should be segregated and stored in a well-ventilated area. If stored outdoors, piles should be covered to keep precipitation from contaminating nearby soil and water. Any chemical or oil spills, such as from oil home heating tanks, must be reported to DEC through the Spill Hotline. For more information on steps to minimize the damage and finish the cleanup quickly, visit http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/oil_spill_flood.htm.