Press-Republican

June 29, 2013

Cuomo declares flood emergency

By KIM SMITH DEDAM and DENISE RAYMO Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Flooding in the North Country and other counties prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue a disaster declaration Friday.

He offered state monitoring and assistance for Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, as well as Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Tioga, Schoharie. St. Lawrence and Warren.

It was a busy day for first-responders, who were coping with flooding and power outages around the North Country.

Both branches of the Boquet River in Essex County jumped their banks about 10 a.m., closing numerous roads and causing some residents in Elizabethtown to be temporarily evacuated.

In Franklin County, National Grid had 3,000 customers without power Friday morning.

EVACUATIONS

Roiling muddy, brown water from the Boquet flooded a low-lying trailer park by Noble Terrace and forced evacuation of apartments and businesses on lower Water Street.

The town hill entrance to Water Street was closed by highway officials about 10:30 a.m.

Elizabethtown Town Highway Superintendent Mike Drew said many side roads in town were either flooded or undermined by water.

The storm blew in overnight, but the water really started to rise in the morning.

Several sections of Route 9 had to be closed down Friday, as were, at times, Otis Lane, Scrivner Lane, Gilligan Road, Fox Run Road and Hurricane Lane.

“We’re closing Water Street,” Drew said, pointing to where water was pressing against the bridge that draws traffic from Route 9 into the heavily populated downtown street. The river had risen about two feet in two hours.

Town Councilman Ben Morris was at the intersection with several local businessmen, including his brother, Matt Morris, and Wayne Shepard.

“We’re preparing for the worst,” Ben said. “We feel it’s a precaution to get people out of the downtown area.”

Plans were made to open a shelter at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School for people displaced by flooding, but it was not needed in the end.

Newly restored Footbridge Park was underwater, the footbridge itself standing sentinel above the white-capped Boquet.

The Boquet River Fish Fest, scheduled for today at the Elizabethtown Fish & Game Club, was canceled due to the flooding.

In Keene Valley, Phelps Brook jumped its banks Friday morning, inundating homes and property.

CLOSE CALL

Just past noon, the water in the Boquet branches and Barton Brook started to recede in Elizabethtown.

Carol Brassard and two of her neighbors, Tiffany Welch, 17, and Amy Keech, 34, returned to their mobile homes off Noble Terrace.

Brassard said none of the homes in the small park were inundated with floodwater.

“But it was close,” she said, measuring out about six inches between hands. “It came this far from the back of the trailer.”

Brassard, Welch and Keech were among about two dozen evacuees who relocated for most of Friday morning, staying with friends and neighbors on higher ground.

“It’s amazing how fast it can go down,” Brassard said, watching water race around the Noble Terrace bridge.

“But everybody looks good. This is close to Irene (flooding). But not quite.”

Brassard and her neighbors returned to their homes by midday to check for damage.

“I hope the rain stops,” she said, as the sun broke through a break in the clouds.

POWER OUTAGES

Meanwhile, power outages were the biggest problem in Franklin County, with 3,000 customers out at one point.

Some impacted homes and businesses were supposed to get service back quickly, according to the National Grid website.

A  flood warning was issued by the National Weather Service for Franklin County, especially Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Malone, where heavy rain two weeks ago caused flooding.

The Salmon River is included in the warning as vulnerable to flooding.

GATES OPENED

John Bashaw II, deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Services, said none of the rivers or streams his agency is watching were flooded as of Friday morning.

“The Saranac Lake looks good. It’s up a little bit, and we’re monitoring it,” he said, adding that the State Department of Environmental Conservation opened gates and released water Thursday in anticipation of the pending rain.

That helped anxious Saranac Lake officials, “so they feel they’re in pretty good shape,” Bashaw said. “They think they’ll be stable throughout the event.”

What also helped ease the tension was that “we didn’t get as much rain as we thought we were going to get,” he said, referring to an early prediction from the National Weather Service that had the region might see 6 inches.

CLOGGED BY DEBRIS

Flooding on Corlear Bay Road in the Town of Chesetrfield, southeast of the hamlet of Port Douglas, reportedly cut off 80 residences.

Chesterfield Highway Superintendent Philip Pray said the flooding is recurring problem with a brook that crosses Corlear Bay Road at its northern end. It has become filled with debris over the years.

He said town crews are not allowed to do work on private property, and homeowners don’t have the funds to take care of it themselves.

Pray said the road was closed to traffic midday, except for emergency vehicles, but water was expected to subside later in the day.

— Staff Writer Dan Heath and Editor Lois Clermont contributed to this report.