FONDA — An isolated thunderstorm dumped nearly four inches of rain on the already waterlogged Fonda area Monday night, causing flash flooding that briefly shut access to the community and leading to cleanup that continued Tuesday.
Michael Main, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm developed near the village and remained in the area from about 4 to 6 p.m.
“It sat there for a couple of hours and continuously dropped some heavy rainfall over the area,” Main said Tuesday. “It didn’t really move much. We actually had very few other showers or thunderstorms in our area. It was a pretty isolated event, the thunderstorm over Fonda”
The estimated 2 to 4 inches of rain that fell over the course of the two hour event is a significant amount, Main said.
“It’s definitely a lot of rain, especially to fall in such a short period of time. When you have that much rain falling that quickly, it has nowhere to go,” Main said.
The fact that the village had experienced 3 to 6 inches of rain over the last two weeks meant that the ground was already saturated with moisture when this latest storm moved in, leading streams and creeks to overflow and cause flash flooding.
Town of Mohawk Highway Superintendent Bill Holvig attributed the flooding in the village to the overflowing of an unnamed creek running behind the Montgomery County Courthouse and homes along Broadway toward the heart of the village. The creek is partially fed by runoff from farms and agricultural lands uphill from the village.
“It just couldn’t handle that amount of water, that volume in that amount of time,” Holvig said of the creek during the fast-moving storm.
The rainfall and related runoff overflowed the creek banks and ran into the village.
“It brought the mud down with it,” Holvig said. “Route 30A and the main street in Fonda were just basically a river. The storm drains plugged up with debris so water couldn’t get in the storm drains and ran down the road.”
Mayor William Peeler declared a weather-related state of emergency at 7 p.m. and the Town of Mohawk Fire Department announced over social media that the village was closed to all traffic as roads were submerged in water.
The state Thruway Authority reported the I-90 off-ramps were similarly closed in both directions eastbound and westbound at Exit 28 in the village of Fultonville due to the flooding in Fonda around 7 p.m. on Monday.
Department of Public Works staff from Fonda and Mohawk began cleanup work immediately supported by the Montgomery County DPW, Thruway Authority, state Department of Transportation and Town of Mohawk Fire Department.
Although, getting to the Town of Mohawk Highway Department building on Park Street in Fonda to begin those efforts was a challenge.
“I was driving through a foot and a half of water to get to the town garage,” Holvig said, acknowledging he could not see the road below the floodwaters at various points.
Aside from flooding in the yard, Holvig said his facilities and equipment were not impacted by the storm. The neighboring Montgomery County DPW building saw a few inches of water and mud seep into their garage.
Initial cleanup efforts focused on clearing mud and debris from roadways as the floodwaters receded. Firefighters helped pump water out of the flooded basements of approximately 15 homes in the village on Monday, according to a Facebook post from the Town of Mohawk Fire Department. No injuries were reported related to the flooding.
Area fire agencies helped local DPW and state crews overnight clear roughly 6 to 8 inches of mud from the sidewalks along Main Street. The material was shifted by hand with shovels and with hoses into the roadway for removal by heavy equipment that was unable to navigate the narrow sidewalks.
Village roads reopened to traffic on Tuesday around 4 a.m. and cleanup efforts continued throughout the day. Yet, Peeler urged area residents to refrain from traveling through the village if possible while cleanup continues and the state of emergency remains in effect in a release issued Tuesday afternoon.
Thick layers of mud were left behind on sidewalks and street corners throughout the village on Tuesday. Peeler recommended residents wear masks to protect themselves from the materials contained in the debris.
“We do not know what is contained in the dust from the dirt,” he stated.
The Frothingham Free Library at 28 W. Main St. was spared any interior damage as floodwaters never reached inside, but Director Shannon Aldi-Hogan and Board of Trustees President Judy Kelly and Vice President Michele Furnare were outside shoveling mud from the parking area out back Tuesday morning.
“We didn’t have a problem in the library, but our little parking space is a mess,” Kelly said.
The library canceled the scheduled summer reading program activities Tuesday while the trio spent the day arranging the sloppy material into a mound along the edge of the street for eventual collection by the village.
A few doors down at 22 W. Main St. building owner Michael Gualano was relieved to find that his property had similarly been spared from flood damage. He has spent the last year renovating the ground floor to convert the space into a pizzeria. Work is about 90% complete on Pizzalono, which is expected to open in the fall.
“We were really worried about what could have been,” Gualano said. “It’s a lot of time and there’s a significant investment in this property looking to give something special to the community.”
Floodwaters on the street were only a few inches from breaching the ground floor level. Four tenants living in apartments on the upper floors were similarly unaffected by the storm and had been able to move their vehicles just before the flooding began.
“It was right up to the door. We got really lucky,” Gualano said.
Gualano was at the building with his mother, Jodi, on Tuesday clearing mud from the sidewalk and windows outside. Michael Gualano is from the area originally and has seen the impact of past flooding on family member’s properties locally that required rebuilding.
He acknowledged some trepidation about the possibility of future flooding, but Judi Gualano noted that Monday’s event was different from previous incidents in the village when flooding originated at the Mohawk River.
“This one was unusual,” she said.
The Subway at 37 W. Main St. has escaped several storms and flooding events in the village in the 15 years since opening its doors, according to franchise owner Martin Waffle, who said the location was actually spared from flooding on its opening day on June 29, 2006.
On Monday night, about an inch of water covered the floor of the shop carrying mud and silt with it inside the building.
“We’ve had many floods in the village of Fonda. This is the first time water ever got in the building,” Waffle said.
The eatery had shut down immediately when the village streets began to flood and remained closed on Tuesday. Traces of mud and water were still visible on the floor. Waffle was unsure how long the location would remain closed, waiting for an afternoon visit from a restoration company to assess the damage.
“They’re spread thin,” Waffle added, noting restoration professionals have been busy responding to recent flooding in Rensselaer County.
Some of the shop’s inventory was also damaged by the flooding and had to be discarded. Yet, Waffle was hopeful the impact from the storm would be minimal.
“Luckily we didn’t get too much water in the building,” Waffle said. “We just have to work through it. Glad I have flood insurance.”
Quick Response was expected in the village on Tuesday afternoon to assist residents impacted by flooding to obtain assessments for cleaning their individual properties. The mayor indicated in his release that the village will seek state and federal funding options to assist with cleanup efforts.