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North Country not spared from flooding

Friday, June 28, 2013
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 Waters of Johns Brook just below Route 73 in Keene Valley in the Adirondacks on Friday  (Photo by Dan Plumley/Adirondack Wild)
Waters of Johns Brook just below Route 73 in Keene Valley in the Adirondacks on Friday (Photo by Dan Plumley/Adirondack Wild)

— Several inches of rain in the eastern Adirondacks on Friday resulted in the most widespread flooding since Tropical Storm Irene struck a devastating blow nearly two years ago.

Parts of two major state highways were closed in Essex County, there were evacuations in Elizabethtown and some rural residents were cut off by high water in Warren County.

In Keene Valley, Johns Brook rose to within inches of the Route 73 bridge Friday morning, and boulders and rocks could be heard rolling downstream, according to a witness.

“I’ve been watching the rivers extensively since Irene, and this is the highest the water has been since Irene,” said Keene Valley resident Dan Plumley.

The National Weather Service said 2 to 3 inches of rain fell in the Keene area during an eight-hour period into early Friday, causing a number of small streams to rise over their banks and closing Route 9N in the Jay-Ausable Forks area. At one point, parts of Route 9 between Elizabethtown and New Russia were also closed.

“Given that it was so wet leading up to this and that most of that 2 or 3 inches fell in just eight hours, streams overbanked,” said Michael Muccilli, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Burlington, Vt.

There was flash flooding in the Elizabethtown area, and the Boquet River flooded, along with the East Branch of the Ausable River around Keene Valley. The water came up in the morning after overnight rain, but by 3 p.m. the streams had crested, according to the weather service.

About 12 to 15 people were evacuated from a mobile home park in Elizabethtown, and about a dozen senior citizens were evacuated from a senior citizen home but later allowed to return, said Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish.

The county had 31 road closures listed on its website Friday evening, but officials were hoping most would reopen as the night went on.

Essex and Warren counties were among the places where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday issued disaster declarations.

In Warren County, the town of Johnsburg, where North Creek and North River are located, was under a local emergency declaration after small streams rose due to heavy rainfall overnight.

“We have a lot of roads out, culverts washed out, some people had to be pulled out,” said Johnsburg town Supervisor Ron Vanselow.

Vanselow said volunteer firefighters helped some residents evacuate their homes, and some residents on Barton Mines Road were landlocked after a bridge over Balm of Gilead Brook was washed out. No injuries had been reported by late Friday.

“It was just 10 or 12 hours of heavy, steady rain,” Vanselow said Friday afternoon. “Warren County seems to have taken the brunt of it.”

The Warren County Sheriff’s Department reported a dozen road closures as of Friday afternoon, including a portion of Route 8 west of Bakers Mills.

In Keene Valley, there’s concern there could be more flooding because more rain is predicted. The National Weather Service is forecasting a 50-percent chance of showers or thunderstorms, some of which may be heavy, throughout the weekend.

“If we get as much rain as we did last night, we’ll be in trouble,” said Jaquish, the emergency services director.

Plumley, who is a partner in Adirondack Wild, a wilderness advocacy group, said he’s keeping an eye on the stream restorations done after Tropical Storm Irene.

’”This is the biggest test so far for some of the restorations that were done after Irene,” he said.

 
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