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River watch

Riverfront residents keep wary eye on ice

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
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River watch


The boat launch under Freemans Bridge Road in Glenville is flooded by the Mohawk River on Wednesday.
The boat launch under Freemans Bridge Road in Glenville is flooded by the Mohawk River on Wednesday.

— The ice is breaking up, but those who live and work near the Mohawk River were still keeping a close eye on it as the water rose Wednesday.

“It’s a little nervous-making,” said Sue van Heukelom, who lives on North Street, overlooking the river. “But I’ll just enjoy it while it’s good and have a plan.”

After Tropical Storm Irene, her house was flooded with 3 feet of water on the first floor. That experience solidified her desire to stay on North Street.

“I just feel I’ve bonded with everyone to such a degree,” she said. “Sharing labor and sharing tools and equipment, so many people volunteering to help. I don’t think I could ever move away.”

Instead, she developed a flood plan. It consists of watching the river, listening to her neighbors’ predictions and, if it ever becomes necessary, staying home during crucial hours. She hopes to move her furniture upstairs if the water rises so she can save her belongings.

Last time, she was visiting a friend in Vermont and came home to find a lake in her living room.

She can see the river from her upstairs windows, but others in the Stockade neighborhood were making regular treks to Riverside Park to check on the ice. The river is mostly clear from North Street on, but ice had backed up as far as Rexford.

City police were monitoring the situation, but as of Wednesday were not anticipating flooding.

Near Washington Avenue, ice had piled up within a foot of the shore. But it had cracked into hundreds of smaller chunks, and water was running rapidly beneath them while the sunlight melted them from above.

The sun glistening on the ice-packed river was a stunning sight.

“It’s beautiful. It makes me want to walk on it,” said Spiff Wiegand, who came to admire the view.

His friend John Cox lives close enough to be affected by the water if the river floods.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on the flood warnings,” he said. “But I still think it’s beautiful.”

Last winter, he walked across the ice to Scotia, he said. This time, as Cox and Wiegand listened to the water rushing beneath the ice, they decided it would not be a wise idea to repeat the feat.

Wiegand was entranced.

“I’ve never been around a frozen river before,” he said. “It sounds like melting rather than a river.”

Others had already prepared for flooding, so they could sit back and enjoy the view.

At Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia, workers remove lawn furniture and even carry a wooden gazebo away from the river each fall. On Wednesday, water was lapping at the edge of that gazebo, which was tied firmly to a tree.

The inn’s back porch overlooks the river, with wooden steps heading down to the shore. At the bottom is a concrete path, which was completely submerged.

But inn manager Kris Birchfield wasn’t worried.

“This is a yearly thing,” said Birchfield. “We know what precautions to take after all these years. We’re not worried at all.”

Even in the worst floods, he added, water has never gone past the wooden porch stairs.

Instead, the flooded river is a selling point.

“Guests with river-view rooms are absolutely fascinated,” he said. “The guests absolutely love this view.”

 
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