As Hurricane Henri prepares to make landfall Sunday afternoon, both the Capital and Mohawk Valley regions are preparing for potential intense rainfall and flooding.
“The situation is very worrying,” said John Garver, a professor of geology at Union College, who studies natural disasters.
He said the path of Henri and current saturated soil are reminiscent of when hurricane Irene devastated the area almost 10 years ago.
“Henri has many people nervous, because there are some amazing similarities,” he said. “The ground is saturated, and intense rainfall is predicted in the Schoharie.”
On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for counties in the New York City, Long Island, Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley areas. As part of his declaration, Cuomo announced that he had called up 500 National Guard troops and directed state assets to prepare for serious storm impacts in these areas.
Schoharie County Office of Emergency Services Director Mike Hartzel was heading back from vacationing in Cape Cod Saturday as the hurricane continued moving toward the coast. He said emergency departments in Schoharie County are preparing for any impacts the storm might bring like they have for others in the past.
“We’re watching it,” he said. “We’ll know more as it gets closer.”
He said should things take a turn for the worse, the county is prepared to enforce evacuation procedures and give people notice to leave the area. He said people should have at least a three day supply of food and water and a radio on hand in situations like this.
The Gilboa Dam also has 3 feet of room still left in it before the water would begin spilling over the top, Hartzel said.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s going to flood because it spills over the top all the time,” he said.
Schenectady County has set up an emergency command center at the county Highway Department, with department heads prepared to meet and track the storm from there beginning Sunday morning, said county Manager Rory Fluman.
Fluman said the county has also spoken with city fire and police.
However, he said it will be a waiting game, as the storm isn’t predicted to begin hitting the area until later in the afternoon.
In the meantime, highway crews, as well as a sandbagging machine, should it be needed, are on standby.
“As we learned 10 years ago, we know where the soft spots are,” Fluman said, noting areas that typically flood include the Stockade and parts of Scotia near Jumpin’ Jacks.
He said the county will be ready to move people to hotels “if needed.”
Fluman said the county has not received many calls so far concerning the storm.
“Oddly that’s what happened 10 years ago,” Fluman said.
The National Weather Service in Albany, which has a site at the Albany International Airport, is predicting 3 to 6 inches of rain across the Capital Region, with thunderstorms expected to bring heavier rain in areas, with totals that could reach up to 10 inches.
“Right now we do have a flood watch up for Schenectady,” said meteorologist Ingrid Amberger. “We’re going to see a lot of rain.”
She said areas like the Catskills and Helderberg mountains could also see more rain due to their terrain.
On top of the rain expected to fall, the ground is already overly saturated after tons of rain poured in July. Amberger said last month was the wettest July on record for Albany since record keeping began in 1826.
That rain is expected to begin really hitting hard Sunday afternoon as Henri makes landfall.
“That would be the greatest threat for flooding,” Amberger said.
The Canal Corporation announced Saturday morning via tweet that it was developing plans to lift the movable dams between Lock E-8 in Rotterdam and Lock E-15 in Fort Plain in the event Henri changes course and heads toward the west.
“If the storm requires lifting of the movable dams, vessels and docks would experience a full lowering of the Canal to winter levels and would likely be grounded following the movable dam lifting operation,” another tweet stated.
The Canal Corp. encouraged residents to “take appropriate action” regarding boats, docks or any other seasonal structures.
Organizers cancelled at least two outdoor events scheduled for Sunday due to the weather forecast.
The Music Haven concert at Schenectady’s Central Park, featuring Liraz and special guests Firas Zreik that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., was cancelled early Saturday evening. Organizers of the Altamont Fair followed suit, announcing later in the evening that the fair would be closed on Sunday.