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State urges caution as weather system will deliver mixed precipitation & potential for ice jam flooding


Thu, Feb 17th 2022 07:55 pm

Flood watches currently in effect through Friday for Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Southern Tier, North Country, Parts of Capital Region

√ Warm temperatures will yield to colder air as storm brings snow and freezing rain

√ State agencies monitoring potential for ice jams and pre-deploying assets in flood-prone locations

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday urged New Yorkers to prepare for possible ice jam flooding as warmer temperatures, rain and melting snow are expected to cause flooding of lakes, streams, rivers and low-lying, flood-prone areas through Friday. The greatest threat from ice jam flooding is expected Thursday night through Friday for several upstate regions, especially in Western New York, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North Country and the Capital Region. Multiple state agencies are monitoring ice jams and potential ice jam formations across the impacted regions and are deploying assets as needed to mitigate damage caused by ice jams and flooding. 

Hochul’s team said, “Residents in areas typically vulnerable to ice jam flooding should prepare now and monitor local weather forecasts for updated conditions.”

She said, "Our teams are monitoring for hazardous conditions as a combination of rainfall and warm temperatures over the next two days will melt snow and cause the potential for ice jams and flooding. The state's ice jam task force is keeping a close eye on the situation across the state and keeping in contact with local governments to assist with any potential or existing ice jam flooding. I urge New Yorkers in areas that typically flood to stay up to date on the weather and take action to protect yourself, your family, and your property."

Ice jams can happen when pieces of floating ice obstruct a river or stream's flow, causing flooding either downstream or upstream. Water that is held back by ice obstructions can cause flooding upstream, while melting ice jams due to warmer temperatures can cause flooding downstream as well. Flash flooding and ice jams themselves can lead to significant property damage, if unattended.

Local governments can contact the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for assistance with permits necessary to remove ice jams. For equipment requests and other assistance, local governments can contact their county emergency manager, who will process requests through the state.

Hochul’s team said, “A weather system will be moving across the state today and tomorrow and will bring a mixed bag of snow, rain, ice and high winds that could lead to potential flooding, travel impacts, and scattered power outages through Friday night. Most areas will first see warm temperatures and rainfall, which will result in river ice break up, followed by high wind gusts up to 55 mph and cooler temperatures that could cause mixed precipitation and icy road conditions. Locations in Western New York are at greatest risk for flooding, especially in ice jam flood-prone areas such as the Buffalo and Cattaraugus creeks, with up to 1.5 inches of rainfall expected through Friday night. Snowfall accumulations of up to 10 inches as well as ice accumulations up to 1/10" are possible in portions of the North Country.”

Multiple weather warnings, watches and advisories have been issued across the state for a variety of potentially hazardous conditions through Friday night. For a complete listing of weather alerts and forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website at https://alerts.weather.gov.

Agency Preparations

•Department of Environmental Conservation encourages municipal officials to immediately undertake local assessments of potential ice jams in flood-prone areas and to remove any accumulating ice or woody debris. DEC permits and authorization are not required to remove debris unless stream banks or beds will be disturbed by debris removal and/or the use of heavy equipment. Municipalities and local governments are advised to contact DEC's regional permit administrators (https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/39381.html) if any assistance is required or to help determine if a permit is necessary.

In the event of an emergency, DEC stands ready to approve emergency authorizations to expedite approval of projects on an expedited basis in place of an individual permit, and generally these authorizations can be issued within 24 hours. DEC approves emergency authorizations for situations that are deemed an emergency based on the immediate protection of life, health, general welfare, property or natural resources. Emergency authorizations are issued with suitable conditions to protect the environment. Additional information is available on the DEC website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/96337.html.

DEC continues to work with partner agencies and localities throughout the state to respond to flooding and ice jams. DEC is deploying drones to assist with the assessment of ice jams. DEC experts are identifying flood-prone areas, including creeks and streams, where snowmelt and rain could cause damaging flooding. DEC is monitoring stream level forecasts and flood gauges on creeks, streams and rivers to assess flooding risks and respond to potential flooding that would activate any of the 106 flood control projects that DEC maintains and operates across New York. In addition, DEC is monitoring wastewater treatment plants throughout the state based on risk conditions, and staff are ready to respond to any emergencies caused by flooding.

For additional information about resources for local officials and emergency managers, visit the DEC website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/115140.html.

•Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is prepared to respond to requests for assistance with stockpile assets, including:

√ Over 1,400 generators

√ Over 1,000 pumps

√ 17 sandbaggers

√ Over 1.5 million sandbags

√ Over 35,000 feet of Aquadam

•Department of Transportation staffers are on alert and working with state and local partners to respond to any flooding and high wind impacts immediately. Department staff are actively monitoring known problem areas and taking action as necessary to mitigate flooding. Regional quick response crews and traffic signal technicians will be standing by in potentially impacted areas.

Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions, and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.

•Thruway Authority staffers are actively inspecting drainage systems and monitoring for potential flooding or ice jams along our system. The Thruway Authority has 681 operators and supervisors prepared to respond to any flooding issues statewide with small to medium-sized excavators, plow/dump trucks, large loaders, as well as portable light towers, smaller generators, smaller pumps, and equipment hauling trailers, as well as signage and other traffic control devices available for any detours or closures.

The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app, which is available to download for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert emails, which provide the latest traffic conditions along the thruway. For real-time updates, motorists can follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or visit thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions.

•The New York Power Authority and the Canal Corp. deployed an ice-breaking tugboat on the Erie Canal and Mohawk River in Schenectady County to break sheet ice between Lock E-7 (Niskayuna) and Lock E-8 (Rotterdam). The movement of the ice breaking tugboat is creating an open channel for the ice to flow downstream in an attempt to potentially help mitigate the negative impacts of ice jams, which can include localized flooding.

•New York State Department of Public Service utilities are tracking and are prepared for the potential impacts of this winter weather event. Approximately 6,150 utility workers are available statewide to respond to emergencies, perform damage assessment, repair infrastructure, and restore customers once the storm system has passed through the state and it is safe to do so. Agency staff will track utilities' work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate staffing to regions anticipated to be most impacted.

•New York State Police Troopers will be monitoring rivers and streams that are prone to ice jams and flooding. Troopers are ready to be deployed in case flooding occurs.

Flood Safety Tips

√ Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.

√ Develop and practice a “family escape” plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.

√ Make an itemized list – as well as potentially photo and video documentation – of all valuables, including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.

√ Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers

√ Plan what to do with your pets.

√ Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries, and emergency cooking equipment available.

√ Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.

√ Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.

√ Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing.

√ Check on your insurance coverage. Homeowners' insurance policies generally do not cover flood damages. Only flood insurance can protect your home against flood damages. You can purchase flood insurance whether or not you live in a mapped flood zone.

For a complete list of weather terms and preparation ideas before during and after a flood, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at https://www.dhses.ny.gov/flood-safety-tips.

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