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What you need to know for 02/24/2017

Residents on edge over water levels

Residents on edge over water levels

Officials and residents along rivers or streams throughout the region were watching water levels Thu
Residents on edge over water levels
Thursdays rain brought minor flooding to Amsterdam. Here a truck moves through waters on West Main St.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Officials and residents along rivers or streams throughout the region were watching water levels Thursday night and this morning for possible flooding, as steady rainfall sent even more water into already saturated waterways.

In Schenectady, city police and fire officials went door to door Thursday night in the areas expected to be impacted, warning residents and checking for problems, according to Mayor Gary McCarthy.

Estimates Thursday evening from the National Weather Service had the Mohawk River cresting just before 8 a.m. today at 221.2 feet at Freemans Bridge Road, slightly above flood stage, which is 220 feet and considered minor flooding. McCarthy said that means the lowest areas of Ingersoll Avenue and North Street could see flooding.

If the river doesn’t go higher, low areas of North Ferry Street and Washington Avenue could be spared, he said.

McCarthy said he expected the situation to be monitored overnight.

“We’re prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best,” McCarthy said.

Though over flood stage, the projected crest would still be five feet below the level reached two years ago in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

The flooding concerns came as a result of steady rainfall Thursday that dumped between one and two inches onto already saturated ground in the Capital Region and 11⁄2 to three inches farther upstream in the Mohawk River and Schoharie Creek, according to the weather service.

Elsewhere in the region, the Canajoharie Creek spilled over its banks Thursday afternoon. Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery reported some flooding near the marina, but otherwise the village was untouched.

A flood warning for the creek was expected to expire at 5:15 this morning. A flood watch for the entire region was to continue until Saturday morning.

Free flow

To help get the water down the Mohawk River and prevent it from being diverted by any debris, the state Canal Corp. moved Thursday to fully open movable dams along the Erie Canal between Fort Plain and Scotia. Opening both the upper and lower gates of the movable dams allows water to flow downstream without being blocked or diverted, according to canal officials.

“Canal Corp. protocol dictates that when the National Weather Service predicts a 10-year event or greater, the movable dams are to be opened,” Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said in a statement. “Opening the movable dams allows water to flow freely downstream and helps us manage water levels.”

The Canal Corp. had already begun Wednesday to lower water levels throughout the canal system, including the Mohawk River portion of the Erie Canal, officials said.

Elsewhere, the canal closed locks from Waterford to Mays Point on the Erie Canal and Halfmoon to Fort Edward on the Champlain Canal, as well as locks on the Oswego Canal.

The rain was also responsible for road closures throughout the region. Flooding forced Route 7 in Cobleskill to be closed between Barnerville and Borst Noble roads from about 6:30 to 8 p.m., while traffic on Route 5 in Glenville was reduced from four lanes to just one lane of alternating traffic between Interstate 890 and Rector Road from about 6:15 to 7:45 p.m.

Two westbound lanes of Route 20 were also closed about 5 p.m. at the intersection with Route 155 in Guilderland after a tree fell across the road.

Officials also reported minor flooding of several secondary roads and side streets.

Flood watches were upgraded to flood advisories in parts of the Capital Region, including Fulton and Montgomery counties.

Boats moored at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park were moved upstream inside the lock structure at Lock E-11 near historic Guy Park Manor for protection, while other boats were moved both east and west of the city.

Canal Corp. staff were working with the stranded boaters to ensure they had services, including electricity, water and bathrooms.

Canal Corp. spokesman Shane Mahar said several boats moored at the St. Johnsville Marina were moved to Lock 16 for protection, and about two dozen boats were moved into the Waterford Flight of locks from the Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club and some private docks.

Earlier Thursday, Schoharie County Emergency Management Director Kevin Neary said minor flooding appeared possible, but he wasn’t expecting a disaster.

“It shouldn’t be a problem for us,” Neary said. “Right now, we’re going to continue to monitor the situation and pay attention. Right now, we don’t anticipate any problems. We just want people to stay alert, pay attention to the weather forecast, and we’ll continue to monitor and update people should conditions worsen.”

Neary said residents would get a reverse-911 phone call in the event major flooding was imminent.

The Schoharie Creek at Burtonsville was also expected to crest this morning above flood stage, just below a moderate flood level, according to the National Weather Service.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said Thursday the track of the storms was a key factor in determining steps that would be taken.

“I’m hoping it goes more south. If it does that, that’ll lessen our precipitation, which will drop our chance [of flooding],” Schwabrow said. “Unfortunately, right now, it’s just a waiting game.”

Reservoirs full

The Schoharie Reservoir was already at capacity before Thursday’s rainfall, as were all reservoirs operated by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

According to DEP spokesman Adam Bosch, both siphons were running at the Gilboa Dam to pull water from the system, and workers on the $400 million dam reconstruction project were moved from the site Thursday morning as a precaution.

Bosch said water can’t be released from the Gilboa Dam into the Shandanken Tunnel because the Ashokan Reservoir it leads to is full, so water flowing over the Gilboa Dam will continue heading down the Schoharie Creek toward the Mohawk River.

Some parts of Clifton Park experienced localized flooding Thursday from stormwater runoff that collected in low-lying areas.

Town planner John Scavo headed out Thursday morning to a report that three or four homes off Crescent Road had standing water on their properties.

“A lot of it is ground saturation,” Scavo said.

Fortunately, town Supervisor Phil Barrett said, street drainage systems in the town are working well, so there have been no road closures due to flooding.

“But there’s a lot of folks in town who have some water issues who haven’t experienced it before,” Barrett said.

The storm that brought a minor tornado through Vischer Ferry on May 29 also deluged the town with rain.

“We got a few inches of rain in a very short period of time,” Barrett said.

Town work crews are still picking up the last of fallen trees and branches people collected from their properties and left curbside. The town offered residents south of Route 146, where most of the damage was, free curbside pickup of storm debris.

Rainfall in the region has been steady since late-May. The Albany International Airport is now running three inches above normal, with 19.45 inches falling so far this year.

As of late Thursday afternoon, rainfall in June alone was running 1.69 inches above normal. In May, 6.65 inches fell, most of which came from May 21 on, National Weather Service meteorologist George Maglaras said.

“The ground is very saturated,” he said.

Steady rain was to end overnight, Maglaras said, with a chance of showers today. Saturday, though, he said, was expected to be nice and “completely dry.” Showers and thunderstorms were expected to return Sunday, however.

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