Capital Region

It’s been dry — until now

Monday's heavy rain led to sewage discharges
It was a rainy day to start off the first full week at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.
It was a rainy day to start off the first full week at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday.

CAPITAL REGION — Enough rain fell in parts of the region Monday for there to be small-stream and urban street flood advisories, and sewage treatment plants struggled — and sometimes failed — to keep up with the volume.

It was enough rain to put a dent in what’s turned out to be a hot and dry summer for the Capital Region and upstate New York, but as has happened often this summer, the rainfall wasn’t consistent. The National Weather Service reported 3 inches fell Monday morning in Duanesburg, but just about a half-inch in Clifton Park.

There were no reports of significant flooding, but an advisory about minor flooding in poor drainage areas remained in effect going into Monday evening.

“When rainful is as intense as this, that’s what causes the problems, because the soil can’t absorb it all and it runs off,” said Ingrid Amberger, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Albany.

Heavy rains Monday morning led to the discharge of raw or partially treated sewage into local rivers from municipal wastewater treatement plants, including a 1.5-million gallon discharge into the Mohawk River at Amsterdam.

The amount of sewage being discharged in Amsterdam would fill roughly 2 1/2 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The U.S. Geological Survey’s website showed the Mohawk rising rapidly due to the rain, which included nearly 6 inches in the northern Catskills, according to the weather service.

The New York Alert system reported the Amsterdam situation at 11:05 a.m., with the flow of partially or untreated sewage into the Mohawk River expected to occur over a 24-hour period, as heavy rain collected in the city’s drainage system reaches the treatment plant.

A 10,000-gallon discharge into the Hudson River was also expected in Glens Falls, according to the alert system, and the cities of Troy and Rensselaer were also reporting they anticipated sewage flowing into the Hudson as their treatment plants dealt with heavy rain.

Such incidents must be reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In a statement Monday, the agency noted that stormwater overflows occur in older cities like Amsterdam, where the stormwater and sewer systems are connected.

DEC officials said that they’re already working with the Amsterdam to address some of its sewage treatment issues, including providing a $5 million grant-loan package that will pay for upgrades, and is working with the city to find other funding.

The region has been drier than normal going into this week.

“The sun and winds’ ability to suck water out of the soil is about a quarter-inch per day. You really need rain to make that up,” said Steve DiRienzo, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

As of midnight Sunday, the weather service’s official reading station at the Albany International Airport showed that 1.63 inches of rain had fallen in July, about 1.3 inches below normal. That will reading, though, will be altered by Monday’s rain.

For the calendar year, DiRienzo said the region is 2.53 inches below normal. There have been 18.47 inches of rain recorded at the airport since Jan. 1, compared to 21.36 inches in an average year. Last year was far wetter than normal, with 26.91 inches having fallen by this time.

Commonly, the region gets a lot of rain in the spring and it becomes dry after June 1, but DiRienzo said this spring wasn’t as wet as usual. “It’s been relatively dry, other than a few thunderstorms here and there,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of heat and dry weather.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor lists most of upstate New York as “abnormally dry,” but the central Adirondacks are listed as being in moderate drought, as is the Tug Hill Plateau and the southern boundary of Lake Ontario.

On Monday, however, rain came hard and heavy enough in the Capital Region and Adirondacks that there was a risk of small-stream and urban flooding. Six inches of rain fell in parts of the northern Catskills — enough that the weather service is predicting a slight chance of the Mohawk River flooding over the next few days, especially with more rain anticipated Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned residents to be prepared. “As the rain moves in and flash flooding is possible, New Yorkers should prepare to use caution and allow extra time when traveling this week,” Cuomo said on Monday.

Street flooding was reported in Schenectady on Monday.

Heavy rain is also in the Capital Region forecast for Wednesday into the night, with the same scenario as Monday — southern moisture being drawn in off the Atlantic Ocean and then falling as rain.

“With the southeasterly flow off the ocean, there’s some potential for widespread rain,” DiRienzo said. “If we can get a few inches of rain this week and put some water back in the ground, we may get out of this deficit.”

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.


Categories: News, Schenectady County

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