UPDATE: Schenectady County water systems to be shut down, locks endangered by flooding
Updated 6:58 p.m.
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Schenectady County municipalities are preparing to shut down their water systems due to major flooding as a result of Hurricane Irene.
Municipalities will be utilizing stored water reserves, and the county issued an emergency order to maintain the highest level of reserves until flood waters recede and systems are brought back online.
County officials said water use should be limited to drinking, food preparation and sanitary concerns only.
The locks along the Mohawk River are holding despite raging flood waters, but state officials fear a possible problem with Lock 7 in Niskayuna.
High water is digging a path around some of the locks, particularly Lock 7, Canal Corp. spokesman R. W. Groneman said.
The corporation is bringing in dirt and stone to fight the erosion, he said. The state Power Authority has a small hydroplant at Lock 7 and is organizing the erosion-fighting efforts.
“The Canal Corp. knows of no structural problems with the dam,” he said.
Schenectady County officials were advising residents of about 30 homes near Lock 7 to evacuate earlier this afternoon as the structural integrity of the lock was questioned.
Emergency responders were going door to door in the affected areas, and Schenectady County was utilizing its emergency response system to call residents directly.
Although the lock has not failed, erosion around the lock could lead to a sudden flood. If a sudden event damages the lock, county spokesman Joseph McQueen said, it would happen too quickly to organize an orderly evacuation.
“We wouldn’t have time,” he said. “We don’t want people to be stuck down there, so we’re asking for a voluntary evacuation now.”
While Lock 7 is not in danger, some water is seeping through an earthen embankment at the Vischer Ferry dam behind the lock. The state Power Authority, which maintains the dam as a hydropelectrical plant, called for evacuations of 30 nearby houses as a precaution.
Authority spokeswoman Christine Pritchard said the affected embankment makes up only a small part of the dam.
About 300 to 400 people were evacuated from Rotterdam Junction this morning as water levels continued to rise.
Volunteer fire departments brought in boats from all over the area to assist with the operation, according to Pattersonville Fire Lt. Gary Urys.
No one has been injured but the whole area is without power. People are communicating through cell phones.
Route 5S is closed from Rynex Corners Road east to Woestina Reformed Church, according to Urys. The whole area is underwater. Homes are flooded and the road is impassable and like a lake.
No one has been injured. The whole area is without power. People are communicating via cell phone,
Koetzle said town officials continue to monitor the situation and asked residents to conserve water.
“Take prudent steps to make sure they’re ready in case there is contamination of the water supply. We can’t guarantee one way or the other,” he said.
Cleanup is going to take some time. The roads are clear and any trees and debris have been moved to the side, according to Koetzle. East Glenville appeared to sustain the brunt of the damage. Public Works Commissioner Tom Coppola and Koetzle will be touring the town later today.
Town Hall is closed as well because of one of the town’s air conditioning units started smoking.
“Because electricity kept going on and off, on and off, it caused the unit to apparently overnight and smoke penetrated the building. There was no damage and no one was hurt but we closed it as a precaution,” he said.
The town can access its computer system remotely and will try to update its website with storm information.
In Scotia, Mayor Kris Kastberg was out directing traffic at Vley Road and Cuthbert Street to tell motorists not to go on the closed Sunnyside Road or anywhere near Freemans Bridge. Traffic is really backed up on the Interstate 890 corridor, according to Koetzle said.
Village officials filled the generator for its sewage pumping station so they should be prepared. Kastberg said the village’s well station had lost power and it was using Glenville. That is being repaired.
Crews were out all day pumping out cellars, according to Kastberg.
Kastberg was relieved that the river would not crest as high as originally thought. This is about the level of the river flooding in 1996.
“It shouldn’t be as bad as we feared,” he said.
All county offices are closed including the county-wide library system.
Power outages continue and some streets remain closed due to downed power lines. Residents should stay away from any downed power lines and report them immediately to 9-1-1.
The county has opened emergency shelters at the City of Schenectady Bureau of Services Garage on the corner of Foster Avenue and Seneca Street, and at the Schalmont Middle/High School, 2 Sabre Drive, Schenectady, NY 12306.
Anyone intending to use a shelter should bring with them items to make their stay safe and comfortable, such as pillows, baby food, diapers, and any medications needed for the night. Volunteers will be on-site to provide water, food and assist with any other need. This could be a several day event, so please take this into consideration when determining what to bring with you to the shelters.
In conjunction with the American Red Cross, the town of Clifton Park has also opened an emergency shelter at the Senior Center at Clifton Common. The center will remain open until at least Tuesday morning to serve residents evacuated from low-lying southern areas of town.
For additional updates, visit the Schenectady County website at www.schenectadycounty.com or the county's Facebook page.