by Susan Mikula Campbell
Some Wheatfield and Town of Niagara residents are still mopping up after last Friday evening's major thunderstorms that took down tree branches, and flooded basements and roads in scattered areas of the towns. Making matters worse, power outages lasting as long as 18 hours shut down basement sump pumps.
Highway and sewer/water officials, along with volunteer fire departments and police agencies from both towns, worked through the night to help out where possible.
On Monday after a contingent of damp Eaglechase Drive residents told of flooding woes at the Wheatfield Town Board meeting, Supervisor Bob Cliffe called an emergency meeting of the town's Drainage Committee for 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 29, at the Wheatfield Community Center, next to Town Hall on Church Road.
Anyone affected by the storm is welcome to attend, Cliffe said, but the meeting's prime focus will be Eaglechase and will include the developer of those homes off Lockport Road.
"They were just overwhelmed by the amount of water in such a short period. They were not interested in the cause, only in the solution," said Cliffe, who visited the development while the flooding was in progress.
Cliffe said Driftwood Drive in the Thornwoods development also was hard hit with water from Bergholz Creek ponding at 15 to 16 inches deep.
Wheatfield's town engineer Tim Walck said the town's infrastructure is designed to handle a 10-year storm and the amount of rain that fell in a short period was more like a 100-year storm designation, with some four inches of rain falling in four hours.
The relatively new culvert installed by Niagara County on Lockport Road near Eaglechase couldn't handle the water believed to be draining from farm fields in the back of the development.
"It wouldn't have been designed for the storm Friday night," Walck said. "Friday night was an anomaly. I hope I never see it again."
Wheatfield Water/Sewer Supervisor Rich Donner reported that his department, assisted by highway and recreation employees, put in 150 man hours over the weekend around the town dealing with flooded pump stations and grinder tanks.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo's speech Tuesday about the state assistance given to flooded Lockport residents, Cliffe asked the governor for similar assistance for Wheatfield and the surrounding towns.
"There are financial loss thresholds to overcome, and these may not have been met on July 19 and 20, but I will keep trying," he said, advising residents to take a lot of pictures and keep good records of any items that have to be repaired or replaced.
Eaglechase resident Kristen Casero said her development has had a drainage problem since it was first built. Her basement flooded for the first time in Friday's storm, but the street has flooded many times. On Friday, water in the street reached as high as 3 feet up peoples' legs, she said.
She's hoping her Italian silk wedding gown, among the stored items damaged by the flood, can be cleaned so she can make, as originally planned, Communion dresses for her daughters with the material.
Much harder hit was her neighbor, who had a finished basement and had just finished a bedroom for his son there. Water was coming through his basement windows and outside, his patio furniture was floating, she said.
Casero requested that special mention be made of the Shawnee Volunteer Fire Co. "They were wonderful," she said, noting that the volunteers worked hours after the storm, knocking on doors to be sure everyone was safe and to assist with basement pumping, then came back during the day on Saturday to double check if help was needed.
Cliffe thanked volunteer firefighters and fire police of each of the town's five fire companies, who were out almost all night protecting drivers from flooded areas and downed power lines, and pumping out basements.
•Rain, drainage and power outages also caused major problems in the Town of Niagara, according to Highway Superintendent Bob Herman, who had flooding at his own home when the power went out, shutting down his sump pump.
Robert and Lozina drives were flooded as the enormous amount of water coming down Cayuga Creek breached the berms created several years ago that had until now handled any overflow. It wasn't until around 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday that the water at Tuscarora Road where Robert, Lozina and Juron Drive enter subsided enough to allow vehicles through, Herman said.
Other flooding problem spots included Military Road under the railroad bridge and Porter Road by the Royal Park Apartments, he said.
Herman said he and his crew worked from about 8:30 p.m. Friday to about 6:30 p.m. Saturday without relief. Through the night, the town's water and highway crews met several times at the Niagara Active Hose firehall to coordinate safety and relief efforts with the volunteer fire department, Town of Niagara Police and Niagara County Sheriff's Office.
The town's annual Kids Fishing Day on Saturday at Elmer's Pond in Veterans Park also fell victim to the storm.
"The pond was so far over its banks that the water was near the top of the picnic tables (set up at pond's edge for the event)," Herman said.
The new date for the event is Aug. 3.