Heavy rain Thursday night into Friday morning sent area streams over their banks, closed roads, damaged bridges and knocked out power.
Mohawk firefighters were called to rescue residents from flooded homes early Friday morning and were turning their attention to pumping out flooded basements in the afternoon, according to Mohawk Fire Chief Daniel Mabbett.
“We had about six creeks go over the top at about 4:30 or 5 o’clock this morning,” said Little Falls Mayor Robert Peters. He estimated that the city received about 3.5 inches of rain in an hour.
“It’s terrible. It’s absolutely horrendous,” said Ilion Mayor John Stephens. “This is going to be worse than the 2006 flood.”
That flood, which occurred seven years ago, also in late June, caused major damage to roads and flooded streets and houses in Ilion, Mohawk and other local communities and closed Route 20 in the southern part of Herkimer County.
The situation was similar this time. Days of rain were followed by a heavy rainfall and the water had nowhere to go. And, as was the case in 2006, cleanup will not be quick or easy.
In Mohawk, power was cut throughout the village and there is a boil water advisory in place, Mabbett said. Drinking water is available behind the school, he added and noted it could be three or four days before the power is back on.
The flooding started at about 4 a.m., Mabbett said. “There were a few houses where foundations gave way. There was a trailer ready to fall into Fulmer Creek.”
He said firefighters were called to rescue people trapped in houses on a number of village streets including Firman, Brookside, Harter, Devendorf and Garden streets. Those who were evacuated from their homes were transported to the fire station. Some then went to stay with relatives while the Mohawk Homestead hosted other evacuees.
Mabbett he is trying to access help from other departments and a payloader has been brought in to assist.
While streets in the village have reopened, fire police were assigned to traffic details at major intersections due to the lack of power to operate traffic lights.
In Ilion, Stephens said, there was damage to both residences and the village infrastructure. The stone arch bridge on Otsego Street near Weber Avenue was damaged when the head wall was blown out into the road, the mayor said. Debris struck the Richfield Street bridge and the West Main Street bridge was closed after a large gas main across the structure was struck. The main was not broken, but the bridge was closed as a precaution.
“At the marina there were canal boats over the wall, sitting on the grass,” said Stephens. “It’s been one hell of a day.”
Page 2 of 4 - He said crews were out cleaning up Friday afternoon and urged residents to stay off the streets. “There’s still danger. We don’t know what’s in the water.”
In Herkimer, fire officials said there were two to three feet of water on some streets and emergency crews rescued at least three people from their homes due to the flooding.
Deputy Fire Chief Jim Woodrick said residents were being advised to “stay calm, stay dry, do not go in the basement.” There were also reports of flooded basements.
Shortly after 9 a.m., German Street was closed due to a report of a problem with a gas main. National Grid was called in to address the situation.
“It’s going to take awhile to clean up,” said Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth. “We want people to be aware that we’re going to do the best we can.” He said the village is looking into the possibility of renting additional street cleaners to help with the cleanup. He said officials from the governor’s office have been surveying the damage. “Albany is well aware of our situation and will be doing what they can to assist us.”
He urged residents to resist the temptation to go out to see the flood damage for themselves. “I know people are curious, but hinders work crews when they’re trying to clean up,” he said. There will be no all-night parking in the village until further notice.
The flooding caused damage to quite a few streets in Little Falls, according to Mayor Peters. “On West Main Street, we had three to four feet of water across the road.” The worst damage was on Manheim Street and in the Kinney’s parking lot, where a pipe blew out. Creek water overflowed and rushed through two stores - Little Falls Hardware and Ed’s Pizza - and out again, he said. Little Falls Hardware announced that while the store was closed, employees could still be called at 867-0761 for repairs.
“The fire and police departments were out most of the night,” Peters said. “My hat goes off to all the citizens of Little Falls who came out and helped their neighbors.”
Peters said he contacted two private contractors who came in with backhoes and excavators will be working on the creek bed. He said that amount of rain all at once was simply too much for the city’s infrastructure to handle.
“Mother Nature is Mother Nature,” said Peters.
The village of Frankfort also declared a state of emergency and had some flooding, Village Clerk Karlee Tamburro said, but damage was not as heavy as in neighboring communities. Residents of Streamside Manor on Litchfield Street were evacuated early Friday morning as a precaution, but were later permitted to return to their homes. There was flooding at the Frankfort Marina and village crews were keeping an eye on Moyer Creek.
Page 3 of 4 - Herkimer County issued an emergency declaration, as did many local municipalities. Herkimer County officials are urging residents not to drink from municipal water systems until further notice. If residents can, they should boil water or drink bottled water, Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono advised. In the town of Fairfield, hard hit by flooding Sunday, Supervisor Henry Crofoot extended the state of emergency there for up to five days.
In addition to road closings and travel advisories, a number of businesses and facilities also closed as a result of the flooding. The Herkimer County offices and court complex, Herkimer County Community College, Herkimer Area Resource Center, Applebee’s in Herkimer, Kinney’s in Little Falls, Herkimer Adirondack Community Physicians and the Slocum-Dickson Medical Group in Ilion were among them. Kinney Drugs, Inc. announced it will continue to provide free prescription delivery throughout the Little Falls area as travel restrictions allow. In addition, the store will deliver grocery or other household items at no charge to the customer. The store will deliver from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The first shift at Remington Arms in Ilion was advised not to report to work Friday.
Meanwhile, sections of the New York State Thruway, the state’s main east-west highway, were surrounded by flooding though police said the roadway remained open in both directions. The flooding also forced state officials to hold off on reopening a section of the Erie Canal that had been closed by previous high water. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a late-afternoon briefing that there was damage along a 100-mile stretch of the canal.
“We don’t believe there’s been any loss of life so far but it is a dangerous situation,” said Cuomo, who declared a state of emergency in several upstate counties.
Fort Plain was hit especially hard by the flooding.
Greg Erhardt lives with his 86-year-old father near the river in Fort Plain and said the flooding was the worst they had ever seen.
“His cellar filled right up,” said the younger Erhardt, 64. “Upstairs is livable, but we don’t know yet about the electric. It’s a mess…It’s unbelievable. Fort Plain really got it this time.”
Fred Cleveland lives a “stone’s throw” from the river in fort Plain with his fiancée, their four children and his fiancée’s mother.
“We lost everything in the apartment. I lost my van,” he said. “When I walked out to the van, the mud was almost up to my knees.”
Cleveland just moved back to the area two weeks ago. He said they got the kids and a “little bit of clothes” out of the apartment, but that was all.
Page 4 of 4 - “When I woke up, I was already in water waist deep,” he said.
The Salvation Army in Herkimer at 431 N. Prospect St., announced that it would open with a hot dinner Friday at 6 p.m. Community Center later Friday night. “Our mobile feeding van from Albany has been assigned to the Herkimer County 911 Center to provide food, refreshments and comfort to rescue workers and emergency personnel,” said Capt. Brian Clark, director of Empire State Division’s Emergency Disaster Services.
State officials say a 125-mile stretch of the Erie Canal from the Albany area to central New York has been closed because of high water caused by the severe flooding. The waterway from Lock E-2 in Waterford in southern Saratoga County to Lock E-22 in Verona in Oneida County was closed Friday because of the flooding.
The state Thruway Authority temporarily closed the right lane between Exits 29A and 30 from Little Falls to Herkimer Friday morning. The road was reopened about 10 a.m.
State legislators representing the Mohawk Valley called on the governor to formally request a federal disaster declaration for Herkimer County to assist with repair costs associated with flooding damage.
Making the request were Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I - Oneonta), Assemblyman Marc Butler (R/C/I - Newport), Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D - Utica), Senator Hugh T. Farley (R/C/I - Schenectady), Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R/C/I - New Hartford) and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D - Utica).
National Grid crews said Friday they were investigating a number of calls resulting from flooding in sections of the Mohawk Valley, particularly in the towns of Mohawk and Herkimer, and the villages of Ilion, Clinton, Clarks Mills and Fort Plain. While crews make repairs and help customers assess damage, it is important that customers take appropriate safety precautions with both electric and gas services and equipment during and after any flooding situations, according to a statement sent out by National Grid.
National Grid contact information for emergencies is:
•All gas emergencies or odor of gas present: 1-800-892-2345
•To report electric outages or downed wires: 1-800-867-5222
•General questions about safety and service: 1-800-642-4272
•Call before you dig: dial 811 or 1-800-962-7962
Wire reports contributed to this article.