By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Forecasts for snow, rain and 50-degree temperatures are leaving officials in Franklin County unsure if flooding on Lower Park Street will get better or worse.
A 4,000-foot ice jam pushed the Salmon River over its banks Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of nearly a dozen homes from 181 Lower Park St. north to 377 Lower Park near the bridge at its intersection with Brand Road.
On Monday morning, the Town of Malone extended its local state of emergency five more days.
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) was in Malone Sunday to see the damage, two days after Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) paid a visit. Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) has also been in touch with local authorities about the situation.
The water level has dropped slightly in the past two days, but the National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 6 inches of snow into today, followed by rain and temperatures in the upper 50s, then more snow Wednesday night, said John Bashaw II, deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Services.
“I’d rather not have the rain, but the cold will make it tighter because the frazil ice will freeze at night and slow down the thaw,” he said, referring to the slushy surface ice clogging the river.
Bashaw said an airboat borrowed from the Hogansburg-Akwesasne Fire Department was used Sunday to check on each of the impacted homes.
Volunteers took about an hour to glide over the ice- and snow-covered river with the propeller-powered craft to make sure the water and ice conditions hadn’t changed and to ensure fuel tanks at each home were secure.
“We did an assessment of all the houses; most of them have 3 feet of water in the first floor. It’s unbelievable loss,” Bashaw said.
A small break from the drama occurred when the team got a report about a possible cat rescue.
“But when we got there, it turned out to be a paper cat in the window,” he said, laughing.
Malone Town Highway Department workers were using front-end loaders Monday morning to scoop tons of snow and ice off the surface of the roadway on the northernmost end near Brand Road.
Bashaw said there isn’t a lot of water under the surface, but it made sense to move the material now so it won’t cause a blockage when the thaw comes Wednesday.
He said the ice is 3 to 4 feet thick on the surface of the river, and about 500 feet of the jam is a solid mass with little water running under it, which still might not be impacted, even with the approaching warm weather.
“There’ll be a 75-degree change in temperature in the past week,” Bashaw said, when Wednesday rolls around, “and the folks around the jam need to report to us any changes they see in the river.
“Between us and the town, we’re checking it about a dozen times a day. But they (residents) need to be vigorous in keeping us informed when the water’s rising.
“If it’s later at night, and they haven’t seen us down there in a while, they need to call us and say, ‘Hey! The water’s coming up,’ so we can get the people what they need.”
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org