Municipalities prep now for potential flooding still days away


WEST SENECA, NY – With a rise in temperatures and rain forecasted to fall on a deep snow pack, municipalities in Western New York that have experienced flooding in the past are making efforts now to stem what could be a tide of ice jams along local streams.

Though the potential for flooding is still a few days away, there are six large crates in the West Seneca town highway barn, stuffed with sandbags and ready for delivery.

"We'll start staging these on Wednesday," explained town Highway Superintendent Matt English, "and by staging I mean we'll bring these crates on trailers and drop them off to the Lexington Green area, and to the Parkside area behind Southgate plaza."

Once dropped off in those flood prone areas near Cazenovia Creek, neighborhood residents will be able to avail themselves of the sandbags.

Of course, sandbags, while helpful in certain cases, would be no match for a flood on the scale of that which struck the Lexington Green neighborhood in January.

"They won't stop a big on rush of water like they got (last month) at Lexington Green," said English. "But if they put them around the bottom of their garage doors or basement windows, sure, these will help some."

Along Cazenovia Creek in South Buffalo, there is evidence of preparations as well. Several sizeable holes have been hacked in the ice over the past several days by the Buffalo Police Underwater Rescue team.

"What that does is allow some structural cracking of the ice, which can allow a better flow of water and a better release of the ice," said Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak. "It's just something we can try and do to assist the ice flow."

Downstream, along the Buffalo River, there is evidence the fireboat Edward Cotter has also been utilized to mitigate potential flooding.

The Cotter has been making passes through the ice jammed river the last five days to slice through the ice and break it up to keep the water flowing."

"It's able to crack ice up to two feet thick. We haven't had it that thick…maybe 6 to 12 inches," said Stepniak, noting the Cotter has been able to travel upstream several hundred yards past the South Park lift bridge.

In truth, no one can predict exactly when or where an ice jam might occur, resulting in flooding.

"At the end of the day Mother Nature is in charge," said Stepniak. "All we can do is our best to assist that process."

That is why the onus is primarily on homeowners in flood prone areas to take their own inventory of precaution.

"If you have a sump pump, make sure it's working now…also your generator," said English, who also advised residents to check to make sure the storm drains on their streets are clear of packed ice and snow.

"That's actually an important thing people can do," said English. "Clean those drainage intakes so water can flow down into the sewer system and not back up into the streets and homes."