A loss of communication with the Gilboa Dam monitoring equipment has helped prompt the evacuation of areas surrounding Schoharie Creek in Schoharie County, a county spokeswoman said.
Evacuation sirens went off at about 1:45 p.m., telling residents along the creek in Middleburgh, Schoharie and elsewhere to take evacuation routes, spokeswoman Karen Miller said.
“The sirens have gone off and there have been concerns with water, as well as the possibility that the dam could fail,” Miller said. “We have asked people to please evacuate safely.”
Miller said those concerns regarding the dam stem from a loss of communication with monitoring equipment by dam officials. She emphasized though, nothing has happened with the dam itself.
It was that loss of communication that helped lead to the evacuation order, she said.
Officials with the Gilboa Dam itself said in a statement early this afternoon that they don’t believe the dam is in danger of imminent failure.
But they did indicate higher-than-predicted amounts of rain, along with the loss of electronic monitoring devices due to the storm, have “increased the potential risk to communities below the dam.”
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the dam, responded by sending additional personnel to the site to better evaluate the condition of the dam.
“In the meantime, those in the affected areas please take every precaution to move to safer ground,” the statement reads.
Shelters set up in the event of a dam failure have been opened up. They include Jefferson Central, Gilboa-Conesville Central, West Fulton fire station, Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, Helderburg Christian School, Duanesburg High School and Schoharie Valley Gospel Church.
Evacuations sirens were activated this afternoon in Middleburgh and areas around Schoharie Creek, a state police official in the area confirmed.
The sirens mean anybody in earshot should evacuate. The evacuations were deemed mandatory.
In Montgomery County, emergency officials activated their emergency action plans, warning residents along Schoharie Creek of a dramatic rise expected in the water levels.
“We’re letting them know now by telephone and the fire department and sheriff’s department is out in the community,” Emergency Management Director Dwight Schwabrow said.
National Weather Service numbers had the Schoharie Creek at Breakabeen at 11.87 feet, above the 11.0 foot flood stage. By 7 p.m., it was projected to crest at a record 20.8 feet. The previous record was 20.5 feet.
Downstream at Burtonsville, the creek was at 6.62 feet with another record crest of 14.1 feet at 1 a.m. The record there was 12.9 feet.
The Thruway, southbound from Exit 24 to 20, is closed because of severe flooding.
In Schenectady County, county spokesman Joe McQueen, with emergency management officials, said damage and outages were widespread.
“We just know there is power out in almost every community, road closures in almost every community and downed trees, power poles and telephone poles, in almost every community,” McQueen said.
The biggest message officials can send, McQueen said, is for residents to stay home, even when the rain stops.
Wind can still be present, there could also still be undiscovered downed power lines, he said.
“That’s one of our biggest fears,” McQueen said. “Once the rain stops, people may think it’s OK and over, but we may still have wind. That doesn’t mean there’s still not some danger.”
Elsewhere in the region, here's a list of major road closures because of the ongoing storm:
Route 146 between Riverview Road and Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna
Route 20 at Fuller Road in Guilderland
Route 20 at Willtown Street in Guilderland
Route 443 between Clipp road and LaGrange in New Scotland.
Route 5 from Frost Road to Yardboro Avenue in the city of Albany.
Route 7 in the town of Pittstown
The city of Schenectady is requiring all citizens to stay off the roads because of the storm. The travel restriction was issued by the police department at 9:52 a.m. and applies to non-emergency travel.
The city has closed Broadway because of flooding. A number of streets in the city of Schenectady are closed because of fallen trees or downed power lines.
N. Ferry St
Kailberg / Wood
Olean / Seventeenth
Manchester / Wood
Grand Blvd / McClellan
State St / McClellan
Campbell Ave between 13th and 14th
Broadway / Harrison Ave
Genesee / Wabash
Norwood from Michigan Avenue through Pennsylvania Avenue
Cheltingham Avenue from the Oak Street Bridge to the old landfill
Park Avenue from Union Street to Union Avenue
Furman Street from Becker to Bradley
Edison Ave and Weaver Ave is also closed due to flooding.
The city of Schenectady is also asking residents to refrain from using dishwashers and clothes washers during the storm and shortly afterwards because of concerns about over-use of the city's sewer system.