Schenectady County

Irene: Flood-study assembly to look at Mohawk during big storms

Research by Union College Engineer Ashraf Ghaly, showing how water reached 10 feet above ground leve

Firefighters watching the bridge over the flooding Schoharie Creek in August reported seeing a wall of water carrying a house that smashed into the bridge after sundown.

It was the same wall of water that wiped about 20 creek side structures off the map on Priddle Road in Esperance — a surge one researcher believes was caused by massive landslides that closed up the creek’s path and boosted the water’s velocity.

Research by Union College Engineer Ashraf Ghaly, showing how water reached 10 feet above ground level in the hard-hit community, is part of a slate of demonstrations and discussions taking place Friday during the Mohawk Watershed Symposium organized by the college’s Geology Department.

Now in its fourth year, the symposium gathers researchers, government agencies and citizen groups focusing on the basin, which encompasses more than 6,600 miles of streams and rivers and canal surrounding a population of more than 500,000 people.

It’s a region that sat in the bull’s eye of tropical storms Irene and Lee — devastating events that provided scientists with new evidence about the weather and what to expect in the future.

“The storms and the flooding related to Irene and Lee was so dramatic and so profound that it’s brought together a number of the key stakeholders in the basin, part of it out of necessity,” said Union College geology professor John Garver, one of the symposium’s organizers.

Garver, one of several submitting research into the program, contends the extreme damage of severe weather should play a greater role in government decision making.

The expectation of more severe weather events and a continued increase of rainfall in the Schoharie Valley doesn’t bode well for the region’s aged infrastructure, ill-prepared to handle many more severe blows.

State Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, will be the keynote speaker during a banquet Friday evening following the day long conference, expected to draw more than 100 people.

Speakers on the agenda represent agencies including the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Canal Corp., and Dam Concerned Citizens.

Papers submitted for the conference can be viewed on the symposium’s Web site —

Categories: Schenectady County

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