Rain, runoff cause problems

Steve Carnavos looked out at the murky water creeping down Boxwood Drive and shook his head.
Jim Smith, owner of High Bridge Pizza in Rotterdam, uses a wet vacuum to clean up water flooding his restaurant on Wednesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jim Smith, owner of High Bridge Pizza in Rotterdam, uses a wet vacuum to clean up water flooding his restaurant on Wednesday.

Steve Carnavos looked out at the murky water creeping down Boxwood Drive and shook his head.

For the Rotterdam resident, the late winter rain that swamped his street Wednesday was similar to flooding from around the same time last year. But it was much worse.

“The water went 10 feet up my driveway,” he said. “That’s further than it’s ever gone.”

Two days of wet weather combined with a melting of last week’s snowfall choked storm drains and flooded roads near the Colonie town line. In some areas, flooding from runoff was compounded by drainage pipes clogged with ice, leaving streets covered with nearly 2 feet of water.

Schenectady County Public Works Director Joe Ryan said many of the flooding problems could be traced to a frozen drainage pipe running beneath the Amtrak rail line near Palmer Avenue and High Bridge Road. He said runoff backed up throughout the whole system.

“It was coming out of the storm sewers instead of going in.”

Ryan said county workers are unable to reach the blockage because they are not permitted to dig beneath the tracks. He said Amtrak officials were warned of the problem but were unsure when the pipe would be unclogged.

Bill Slover, a supervisor with county public works, said the only option was to wait.

“The most you can do is stand by it, and hopefully it goes down quicker than it came up,” he said.

Rotterdam deputy Highway Superintendent Rick Fowler said the High Bridge neighborhoods weren’t alone. He said road crews spent most of the day dealing with drainage problems.

“We probably had 20 spots all over town like this,” he said. “We’ll probably be here most of the night pumping.”

REGION AFFECTED

Elsewhere in the Capital Region, rain and runoff caused minor headaches. Numerous road closures were reported, including parts of Route 9 limited to one lane in each direction in Halfmoon. Route 4 in Stillwater was closed for most of the day. National Weather Service meteorologist Ray O’Keefe said the weather was about as predicted.

“We thought it’d be a widespread minor event, and that’s kind of what unfolded,” he said

In Schoharie County, the Schoharie reservoir spilled over the 182-foot-tall Gilboa Dam. Emergency Management Director Judith Warner said nearly a foot of water was cascading over the dam by mid-afternoon.

The siphon system at the New York City-owned dam has been operating continuously for several weeks, according to Warner, in an effort to moderate the water level in the 19-billion gallon, six-mile-long reservoir.

In Rotterdam, the massive amount of runoff kept firefighters and highway crews hustling to pump out storm drains throughout the day.

Many roads throughout the neighborhood remained closed throughout the day, leaving some residents marooned in their homes.

“The water was knee-deep,” said Carman Fire Chief Dave Galka, whose crews spent most of the day pumping water from inundated streets into available drains.

Just a few blocks from Carnavos’ home in Rotterdam, Beverly Pottala awoke to a two-block-long, 50-foot-wide pool of water outside her Palmer Avenue residence. In 41 years of living in the neighborhood, she couldn’t recall flooding nearly as severe.

“This water is going nowhere,” she said. “It looks like the Mohawk River.”

Joe Smith, the owner of High Bridge Pizza, spent the day warding off the water instead of cooking pies. He arrived at work to find nearly 2 inches of water lapping against his front door.

“It was running in right through the front door,” he said, as workers continued to mop up.

Smith said brief flooding is common along High Bridge during downpours, but the water usually dissipates quickly. This time, it forced him to lose a day of business.

“It always floods here, but it always drains,” he said. “The water never lays here for hours like this.”

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