‘I’m trying to figure it out’: Schenectady residents deal with flooding after water main break

Water from the break is seen in Central Parkway back yards Wednesday, left and top right (Chad Arnold); The break as seen Wednesday morning with a car stuck in the sink hole. (Peter R. Barber)

Water from the break is seen in Central Parkway back yards Wednesday, left and top right (Chad Arnold); The break as seen Wednesday morning with a car stuck in the sink hole. (Peter R. Barber)

SCHENECTADY — It was just after 4:30 a.m. Wednesday when Jordan Briggs went to take her dog for a walk and discovered a river rushing down her neighbor’s Central Parkway driveway, located just down the hill from Ellis Medicine’s McClellan Street campus. 

When she investigated further, she discovered her backyard was flooded and a geyser that formed at the rear of the medical campus was spewing an unknown number of gallons of water into her neighborhood. She grabbed her dog and called 911. 

“I looked out back and noticed something was very wrong,” Briggs said. “The water was spraying up in the air.”

Briggs’ home was one of around half-a-dozen residences along Central Parkway impacted by flooding caused by a water line break on the hospital campus, which forced some people from their homes and caused thousands in damages. 

Neighbors described finding several feet of water in their basements after being woken by city firefighters shortly after 5 a.m. alerting them to the flooding, and raised concerns about additional flooding as warmer temperatures set in this week and rain moves into the region.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Briggs, whose home remained dry but backyard was flooded knee-deep. 

National Grid cut electric and gas service to four residences on the street due to the flooding, and residents were ordered to vacate the property by the city because of unsafe conditions.

Power was restored to one house a short time later, though it’s unclear when utilities will come back online at the three remaining residences, according to Patrick Stella, a National Grid spokesman. 

Stella said the flooding also impacted the company’s McClellan Street substation, though customers serviced by the station have been transferred to another station.  

“Customers served from [the McClellan Street] substation have been transferred to another power source until the situation is safe to start the station again,” he said in an email.  

The break opened a sinkhole at the hospital just after 4:30 a.m. that swallowed a car. City firefighters were able to rescue the driver, who was uninjured, according to Assistant Chief Don Mareno. 

The driver told police he initially only saw it bubbling out as he approached, but then the pavement collapsed under him, police spokesman Sgt. Pat Irwin said.

City crews worked to stem the flow of water at around 8 a.m., but Ellis is responsible for the repair since the break occurred on a water line located on hospital property, according to Mayor Gary McCarthy.

The water was still pouring from the pipe break shortly before noon, though a private repair company was onsite just before 2 p.m. 

“It’s a water main break. Is this really news?” said one worker, before climbing into a pickup truck. 

The hospital released a statement shortly before noon Wednesday notifying residents of the break, which did not result in the loss of water for city residents. 

“Contingency plans have been activated, and include providing alternate water supplies for the campus,” the statement said. “There has been no effect on heating at any of the campus facilities, and we thank our staff for their work in limiting disruptions to patient care.

Philip Schwartz, a hospital spokesman, did not immediately provide a timeline on when the repair is expected to be complete and if the hospital would be liable for any damages the residences along Central Parkway sustained. 

“Our hearts go out to our neighbors impacted by this,” he said. “It’s a still-developing situation and we don’t have all the answers.”

Meanwhile, Jessee Pittman was spotted loading a suitcase and a handful of other items into his friend’s car shortly after 1 p.m., not long after the city posted an order on his front door, telling him to vacate his 761 Central Parkway home.  

Pittman, who has lived at the residence with his son for the past five years, said he was planning to stay with his daughter and was still trying to get his head around the situation, including the extent of the damage and whether his insurance would cover any of the repairs. 

He said his basement was flooded with around 3 feet of water and that his car, which was submerged past the tailpipe in more than a foot of water, was a total loss.

“I’m trying to figure it out,” Pittman said. 

Just up the road, at 781 Central Parkway, Bob Gough had a sump pump working to clear his basement, which he said was submerged in water chest-deep.  

He was staying at his mother-in-law’s home next door, where flooding was contained to the backyard. 

“It’s a bummer,” Gough said. “These are the reasons you have insurance.”

Meanwhile, Briggs was trying to figure out the extent of the damages. 

While her home escaped flooding, her garage, where she stored hundreds of dollars worth of supplies for her craft business, sustained heavy damage that will likely reach into the thousands, Briggs said.

“It’s just chaos, honestly,” she said. “I feel awful for my neighbors.”

Reporter Steven Cook contributed to this report. 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold. 

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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