TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY – According to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), work was performed at the intersection of Sheridan Drive (NY Rt. 324) and Belmont Avenue six years ago in order to prevent persistent drainage problems.
The work done, however, seemed no match for a deluge on Monday which resulted in the closure of Sheridan near Belmont, when flooding trapped several cars before they could be towed to safety.
“Years ago, there had been some ponding issues on NY 324 at Belmont, but in recent years this location has not been problematic,” said DOT Spokesperson Susan Surdej in an e-mail to WGRZ-TV.
“In 2011, NYSDOT performed preventative maintenance which included milling and overlaying on Sheridan at Belmont which would have re-established the cross slope, thereby eliminating any persistent drainage issues at that intersection,” Surdej said.
No Match for Mother Nature.
Given the severity of the rainfall, the flooding on Sheridan came as no surprise to J. Kirk Rowland, a division head in the Town of Tonawanda’s Water Resources Department.
“The rain was intense yesterday. We got well over and inch in about an hour," said Rowland, who is pretty convinced that it was an act of God, and nothing else, that caused the flooding.
"I don't think there could have been anything done, but let the street drain," Rowland said.
State, not the Town, is Responsible for Sheridan
A map on the wall of Rowland’s office on Belmont Avenue (just a block from where the flooding occurred) outlines the 280 miles of storm sewers his department is responsible for in the town.
However, he noted that those that run along Sheridan Drive, are not among them.
“It's a state road,” said Rowland. “Which means the state handles drainage off that state road."
Yet, as the water rose, so too did frustrations of residents who were taking to social media to voice them, particularly after the Town of Tonawanda advised, on its own Facebook page, that “To report a water or sewer emergency in the Town of Tonawanda please contact (716) 874-0490.”
The number is for Rowland’s department.
“We want our residents, if they have a water related problem, to call us,” said Rowland. “Whether it’s a state road, or a county a road, we want them to call us so we can provide any information about the situation we might have, and educate them,” Rowland said.
However, several people who posted on the town’s Facebook page complained that when they tried to call the town at the number provided, no one answered the phone.
“We had two people answering phones,” insisted Rowland. “But we got approximately 75 calls on this situation alone. We got to people when we could, and I apologize for people we couldn't get to,” Rowland said.
No Easy Fix.
Despite the fact that the storm sewer and drainage along Sheridan are the responsibility of the state, Rowland offered his opinion that there might not be much the state could do to prevent flooding during a weather event as severe as that which the town experienced Monday.
Even if it installed bigger lines and more drains.
“I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I don’t know if there could even be a cost effective remedy for them to eliminate that flooding, and I don't know if it's worth it to try and eliminate that flooding which happens so infrequently," he said.
Who You Gonna Call?
Surdej said that residents are “always encouraged” to contact the NYSDOT if they have a concern or a service request on a state highway. She added that service requests on state highways are handled geographically, and offered the following phone numbers.
Cattaraugus County – 945-0739
Chautauqua County – 753-2848
Northern Erie County – 684-6180
Southern Erie County – 648-0295
Grand island & Niagara County – 438-2012