Residents flee Mohawk, clear downed trees
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Residents fled Schenectady County’s low-lying areas as the Mohawk River’s banks overflowed, damaging property and threatening to burst canal locks.
In Rotterdam Junction, at least 300 people were evacuated as water levels continued to rise throughout Monday morning.
Volunteer fire departments brought in boats from all over the area to assist with the operation, according to Pattersonville Fire Lt. Gary Urys.
Route 5S was closed from Rynex Corners Road east to Woestina Reformed Church, Urys said.
“This is probably the worst storm we ever had,” said Rotterdam Supervisor Frank Del Gallo.
No one was injured, but the whole area was without power and it may not be restored for a week.
As of 4 p.m., about 50 people were at the Senior Citizens Center at 2639 Hamburg St., which has been designated as an emergency shelter, according to Del Gallo. Some residents are staying with relatives.
Dunnsville Road and Rotterdam Junction were among the worst-hit areas. Trees are down everywhere, according to Del Gallo. “Our town’s volunteer fire departments are doing a great job. They’re evacuating people and pumping cellars,” he said. “The town guys have been working around the clock. Nobody’s really had any rest.”
Town Hall remained closed throughout the day on Monday. If power isn’t restored by today, Del Gallo said he is going to try to obtain a generator to keep town operations running.
Del Gallo said the town’s water supply is not in danger because its well heads are at a greater height than the water level.
“We’ve got a million and a half gallons of water in the tanks so we don’t have to shut the water down,” he said.
In Niskayuna, residents of about 30 houses in the area of Lock 7, including Niska Isle, also evacuated because of concerns that high water is eroding a path around the lock.
Canal Corporation officials are bringing in dirt and stone to stem the erosion. Supervisor Joe Landry said efforts have not been successful so far. “It continues to leak through down to the bottom,” he said.
In addition, Landry said, police are notifying people near Rosendale Road to consider leaving. While they may not be directly affected by flooding, they may not be able to get access in or out of their house.
“We won’t be able to get emergency vehicles down there,” he said.
About 20 to 30 Niskayuna Public Works employees spent the night building a 6-foot-high wall around its water wells at the plant located near Lock 7, according to Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw. They finished construction at about 1:30 p.m. “We got sandbags [Monday] morning because we couldn’t get it high enough.”
Town Hall is open and running on generator power, according to Landry.
Parts of the town of Glenville experienced significant flooding. Maalwyck Park and other low-lying land between the Mohawk River and Route 5 was underwater, according to town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.
“We’re seeing some of the soccer equipment float way down the stream,” he said.
Washington Avenue and Freemans Bridge Road also has sustained substantial flooding, according to Koetzle. The Water’s Edge Lighthouse Restaurant was flooded and sections of the Schenectady County Airport were underwater.
Koetzle 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.
Much of the initial storm damage occurred in East Glenville with the flooding in other areas.
“We kind of got hit on both ends of the town,” Koetzle said.
Koetzle is advising residents to bring their storm debris to the curb to be taken away later this week.
“We’re getting a lot of calls of when we’re going to start cleanup. Our priority continues to be clearing roads and working to get power restored,” he said.
Town officials continue to monitor the situation and residents should conserve water, Koetzle said.
“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.
Town Hall was closed Monday because 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 overheat 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.
Koetzle said the state of emergency remains in effect because many trees and power lines are still down.
“We don’t want a lot of unnecessary travel while crews are trying to clean this up,” he said.
Koetzle said he doesn’t think there should be any water problems.
In Scotia, Jumpin’ Jack’s and Collins Park were underwater. Also, the flooding pushed a house off its foundation on Washington Avenue, according to Mayor Kris Kastberg. Schonowee Avenue was also flooded.
Kastberg said the village is on its own water and sewer and there should be minimal disruptions, except for the people on Washington and Schonowee avenues.
Water levels are dropping, according to Kastberg. “We’re probably getting down to the point where we can get people back in on Washington and Schonowee but I can’t guarantee.”
Gawkers filled the Western Gateway Bridge near the submerged Jumpin’ Jack’s, and filled Collins Park, at least the areas not underwater.
Among those at Schonowee Avenue, between the park and drive-in, was Barbara Beverley of Glenville.
Beverley wasn’t marveling at the water so much as wondering how her rental house was faring down Schonowee Avenue on Washington Avenue.
She just finished renovating the home, with new hardwood floors and carpets, two weeks ago. Her new tenant was set to move in Thursday, she said.
“I pray to God it hasn’t gone up to the second floor,” Beverley said. Her birthday is also Wednesday. “I can’t even be joyous over that, worrying about water, mud, the furnace, water heater.”
Beverley also worried about her job in the library at Schenectady County Community College and damage there.
Among those in better shape at Collins Park were Charlie Evans and his 4-year-old daughter Grace. They were riding around on his bike after he spent the day clearing downed trees from their Scotia home.
“This is worse than I’ve ever seen before,” he said.
In the park itself, 66-year-old Pat Knapp sat on a waterside bench with her son, Payson Long, and grandson, 14-month-old Caleb.
The bench, though, was meant to sit by the path, and the pond is usually a long way away.
“We go to Freedom Park to the concerts all the time; it’s absolutely amazing,” Knapp said, her grandson sleeping in her arms. “We’d be sitting underwater.”
Henry Plant and his daughter Suzette Tanis-Plant watched the rushing river from the Western Gateway Bridge. Tanis-Plant was visiting her father in Scotia for the summer. The Rotterdam native now lives in France outside Paris.
Tanis-Plant credited Gov. Andrew Cuomo with getting the warning out about the storm. Her father’s Scotia home was safe.
They also stopped to see the devastation at Jumpin’ Jack’s, a place they’d gone to eat just recently.
“I just said to dad we had a once-in-a-lifetime meal at Jumpin’ Jack’s the other week and we’ve got to come down and see what happened,” the daughter said.
On the tree-lined Sunnyside Road in Scotia, the sound of chain saws was prevalent. At Gus Graham’s home, four trees fell, luckily none on the house. A family car did get hit, though.
Others on the road were not so fortunate — one house had a tree on it still Monday afternoon.
When the first one came down at his home, Graham said he made sure to get the kids down from a bedroom.
As for who will pay for the cleanup work, Graham was likely doing the same thing many others in the region were doing Monday. “We’re going through the policy now to figure out what’s covered and what’s not.”
In the village of Delanson, where more than 10 inches of rain fell Sunday, about a dozen residents were evacuated from West Shore Road. Mayor Sally Burns said the residents were displaced as a precaution due to the large influx of water at the village reservoir, but all of them have since returned home.
Other than a few downed limbs and a number of basement pump-outs, the village remained relatively unscathed. Burns said Delanson is in a relatively good state compared to other areas in the state.
“By and large, we were very fortunate,” she said.
Schenectady County remains under a state of emergency but is lifting the restriction on travel effective 5 a.m. today. The county also remains under a water conservation order. Officials urge residents to limit water use to drinking, preparing food and washing dishes as local municipalities may have to shut down the water systems and use stored reserves. The Schenectady County Environmental Health Unit has also issued guidelines for food establishments. All food service facilities without electrical power for more than four hours should discontinue operations and those without water must shut down immediately. Facilities that have compromised on-site ice machines and other appliances should disconnect them during the power outage.
The county has an emergency shelter at the City of Schenectady Bureau of Services Garage on the corner of Foster Avenue and Seneca Street.
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.
For additional updates, visit the Schenectady County website at www.schenectadycounty.com or the county’s Facebook page.