Capital Region

Tropical storm passes too quickly to cause much flooding in Capital Region

Tens of thousands of customers without power in wake of Isaias
A downed tree blocks Stanley Street in Schenectady on Tuesday.
A downed tree blocks Stanley Street in Schenectady on Tuesday.

The Capital Region sustained wind damage Tuesday but avoided any widespread flooding from Tropical Storm Isaias.

The rainfall varied significantly by location, from 3 to 5 inches in and around Albany, the National Weather Service reported. This shattered the record for the date in Albany but stopped far short of the totals dumped by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and other storms that have left devastation in their wake.

Isaias hit the region squarely on its way to Canada but it was moving so quickly that it didn’t have time to create sustained flooding. And most of upstate was rated “abnormally dry” or “moderate drought” when the storm hit, so it had the capacity to absorb the water.


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The wind that accompanied the rain hit 30 to 50 mph, and the electrical grid was its biggest casualty.

National Grid put the number of customers without power across the region at 30,000 by late afternoon. It said it would have more than 500 people working in shifts to restore power, and the effort would stretch into Wednesday.

NYSEG also reported extensive power outages — 91,000 customers, most of them in the lower Hudson Valley. Its Mechanicville Division had nearly 6,000 customers without power by late afternoon.


Aside from electrical outages, county officials across the region reported relatively minor impacts from the storm.

Cap. Mike Bortell of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said as of 8 p.m. there were a lot of trees down and power outages. But there was limited flooding, none of it serious enough to close a road.

In Schenectady, one hapless motorist drove into a flooded street and got stuck, as is the tradition during a big rainstorm. But otherwise, no major crises, said Assistant Chief Don Mareno of the Schenectady Fire Department.

The department geared up for the worst and it didn’t happen.

“We had some tree limbs down, some wires down, some flash flooding in the usual areas, but we’re all subsided now,” he said around 8:30 p.m.

The rest of the county fared well, too, said Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman.

“We were lucky. It was just incidental trees down, incidental power outages,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Fulton County Emergency Management Coordinator Steven Santa Maria said emergency responders were seeing the typical calls, trees down and power out, intersections in the Johnstown and Gloversville where the storm drains couldn’t keep up with the rainfall.

Later, he said a few thousand people were without power countywide.

“The rain has stopped, the wind seems to be dying down, we’re hoping the worst might be over,” Santa Maria said.

One notable casualty of the storm: A blown switch at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. It left the facility without power briefly.

“That caused us a little anxiety for a few minutes,” Santa Maria said. City firefighters and hospital staff got the system running again.

Montgomery County, which has suffered heavily in multiple storms this century, had sustained only minor damage as the clouds cleared Tuesday evening.

The biggest problem as of 8 p.m. was a culvert failure near the intersection of routes 30 and 161 that required road closures, said Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Sager.

Otherwise, he said, the impact was minor. “We had a couple of areas where we had a couple of trees down. Quick response, quick reopen — we’ll take it.”


National Weather Service meteorologist Christina Speciale said the tropical storm veered a bit east of Albany as it blew north from the Atlantic Ocean to Canada. At 8 p.m., what might be called the eye of the storm was six miles north-northwest of Rutland, Vermont, and continuing to dissipate as it moved north.

“I wouldn’t even call it the eye, I would call it the center. It became so disorganized it’s not a traditional eye,” she said.

It was an uncommonly fast-moving tropical storm, Speciale said. When a hurricane or tropical storm bumps into a high pressure system and stops moving, it can have a devastating impact on the region below, as it dumps rain by the foot.

There was nothing in Isaias’ path to do that here.

No one was expecting a repeat of Tropical Storm Irene, which caused such destruction in the Schoharie Valley, Mohawk Valley and Vermont, Speciale said.

Aside from the speed of this storm, it dropped its rain on dry ground and the rivers and lakes had room to take the overflow.

Irene arrived at the end of an abnormally wet August 2011, dumping a lot more rain that had nowhere to go, resulting in massive flooding.

Most of the flooding seen Tuesday was the localized result overflow of urban drainage systems that couldn’t handle the rain, Speciale said.

River monitoring stations across the region were well below flood stage as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.

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