SCHENECTADY — Floodwaters on the Mohawk River receded preciptiously overnight, according to the latest river-level data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Water levels pushed more than three feet above flood stage late Wednesday night before dropping six feet between 11 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday, based on information collected at Freeman’s Bridge.
The sudden drop spells relief to hundreds of residents along the Mohawk in Schenectady County who faced potential flooding to their homes Wednesday night. Some residents of Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood were voluntarily evacuated Wednesday night as the river continued to rise.
In other new flood-related news overnight, Rotterdam police announced that Route 5s (River Road) is currently closed to vehicle traffic between Lower Gregg Road and Mabie Lane due to flooding. Motorists are not able to pass through this area and are advised to seek alternate routes. Rt. 5 (east/west) may be utilized to bypass the affected area.
Residents living along the Mohawk in Schenectady and Montgomery counties dealt with flooding issues throughout Wednesday as a result of ice jam movement in the river.
Water levels continued to fluctuate throughout the day on Wednesday. By the evening, water levels were receding, according to both the National Weather Service and city emergency management officials.
The Stockade neighborhood in Schenectady was flooded late Tuesday into Wednesday, and water was still present on several streets there Wednesday night.
By Wednesday night, almost half of Ingersoll Avenue still had water, while several others still had road blocks. City of Schenectady's Deputy Fire Chief Don Mareno said firefighters would continue to monitor the river overnight.
There was also flooding in the Village of Scotia, with water creeping into the parking lot of Jumpin' Jacks Drive-In throughout the day. The village issued a press release late Wednesday afternoon announcing that Schonowee Avenue would remain closed until further notice due to the flooding.
The Montgomery County Emergency Management Services Office closed two roads in its county, according to a press release. This included Sanders Road between Paris and R. Dillenbeck roads in the Town of Minden and Wagners Hollow Road between Nellis Road and State Highway 67 in the Town of Palantine.
Both roads are closed until further notice, according to the release.
Several city firefighters, police, county emergency management officials, state Office of Emergency Management officials and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials monitored the river throughout the day.
There were also members of the Albany County Sheriff's Office Drone Unit at Jumpin' Jacks using the devices to survey the river and pinpoint areas where ice was jamming and backing up.
Several members of the public also gathered at the parking lot, observing the water that was coming their way and snapping photos of the drone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo even made an appearance at Lock 8, where excavators were seen removing chunks of ice.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the excavators were being used to clear channels in the river to allow the river to flow.
"We're encouraged by the open channels," Seggos said, adding that they were opening different channels at different parts of the river.
There was buildup near the front of the ice jam between Rexford and Freeman's Bridge, which John Garver, a professor of geology at Union College, said became the biggest area of concern. He also said there was some jamming occurring at the Rotterdam Junction near Lock 9.
It was unclear if the ice ever moved from those areas.
The hope was that all the ice would cleanly pass over the Vischer Ferry dam, Garver said, without any major flooding. With ice still in the river, it's still hard to say what can happen.
"Until the jam goes over the Vischer Ferry dam, it's still a major threat," Garver said.
Christina Speciale, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said they were seeing water retreating downstream from the Stockade neighborhood Wednesday night. While NWS didn't anticipate any more ice melting in the river during the evening, Speciale also said they expect it to freeze in place as temperatures are expected to drop to near freezing Wednesday into Thursday.
There is also the possibility of snow and sleet accumulations of 1 to 3 inches on Thursday, Speciale said.
Many Stockade residents approached this latest instance of flooding with more of a cavalier attitude, while some voluntarily left their homes during the day.
Mareno said six homes were voluntarily evacuated on Ingersoll Avenue and firefighters were there to assist. At one point, residents were seen being transported from their homes in the back of a Schenectady Fire Rescue truck out of the floodwaters.
One resident, whose home was the closest to the river, chose to stay at one point. Mareno said the was water 2 to 3 feet high in his basement, putting both his electricity and gas lines in jeopardy. He said firefighters eventually were able to talk him into evacuating,
"We talked to them, explained to them the conditions and explained our concern," Mareno said. "We expressed that we wish they leave."
One of the voluntary evacuees was Crystal Hall. She left her home on Ingersoll Avenue along with her kids. She said she had been packed since the last flooding incident from the ice jam on Martin Luther King. Jr. weekend.
"We've been prepped for awhile," Hall said.
Terry Smith, who owns a home on Ingersoll Avenue but rents it out to tenants, was at his home early Wednesday. He was helping his tenants evacuate, adding he found somewhere else for them to stay.
"We're doing it as a precaution," Smith said.
Other residents didn't seem too perturbed by the floodwaters.
Susan Peck began renting a place on Ingersoll a year before Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. She said she lost everything in her apartment after the storm. Thanks to flood insurance, she said everything was replaced.
This time around, she wasn't too concerned about flooding, especially with living in the Stockade.
"You know it's going to happen," Peck said. "What's the point in stressing about it?"
Selma Marley, who owns the home Peck lives in on Ingersoll, said she also has a sump pump in her basement. When water comes in, she said the pump automatically switches on and pumps out the water. She also had everything in her home destroyed, but thanks to flood insurance, she was able to get everything replaced.
Marley said the only reason they would leave their home is if the flooding causes the power in her home to go out.
"We're used to it," Marley said of the flooding. "We've lived here for 13 years."
Cory Jensen, who lives in the Stockade area, said he wasn't too concerned about floodwaters reaching his home.
"But it's that small percentage that makes you worry," he said. "The river is going to do what the river is going to do."
Jensen does have flood insurance and said he made sure he had all the documents he needed in case he were forced to evacuate. He also lived there when Irene hit and knows that the area is prone to flooding.
"But I couldn't move," Jensen said. "It's totally worth living in the Stockade."
Flooding occurred in various areas of the Stockade neighborhood Wednesday, with several roads being closed off since early Wednesday morning. These streets include Ingersoll Avenue, Cucumber Avenue, North Ferry Street and North Street.
Floodwaters reached the Stockade neighborhood overnight after the 17-mile-long ice jam broke upstream in Amsterdam near Lock 10, according to the National Weather Service. This was after a few days of unseasonably high temperatures. Temperatures reached the low to mid-60s on Tuesday and were in the 70s as of Wednesday afternoon.
Those temperatures quickly dropped during the evening to the lower 40s.
The weather service in Albany initially issued a flood warning for the city and other areas of east-central Schenectady County that began at 6 a.m. and was expected to last until 6 p.m. Wednesday.
(Steve Disick/Sky Aerial Services)
That warning was later extended until 4:15 p.m. Thursday.
The warning on the weather service's website said the ice jam could cause flooding not only near Lock 7 but also in areas such as Niskayuna, Alplaus, East Glenville, Aqueduct, Grooms Corners, Rexford, Glen Ridge, Hawthorne Hill and Vischer Ferry.
The agency's hydrograph, which monitors the Mohawk River's water levels at Freeman's Bridge, has been showing the river dipping up and down throughout the day.
Ice in the river causes inaccurate readings, though, according to weather service meteorologist John Quinlan, causing the hydrograph to read where the ice is but not the water level.
“Ice jams are very hard and unpredictable and very difficult to forecast," Quinlan said.
About 5 p.m. Wednesday, the hydrograph said the river levels reached nearly 223 feet, which is above the flooding threshold. By 10 p.m., the river levels were just above 222 feet and were trending downward.
The National Weather Service will continue to monitor the river over the next few weeks because ice is present there, according to Speciale. She predicted the ice would freeze in place, but flooding could occur when it warms up again.
"As long as there is ice, people who have interest in properties along the river have to be on high alert," Speciale said.
With no renewed concern of flooding in the near future, Mareno said he hopes residents can move back into their homes on Thursday.
"As long as the river keeps receding and homes are not in jeopardy, they'll be able to go back in," Mareno said.