Flood-weary Herkimer County residents could potentially see a new wave of flooding Wednesday as a new storm system gradually moves through the area.
That’s according to Herkimer County Director of Emergency Services Robert Vandawalker, who on Tuesday said the Hinckley Reservoir is expected to return to minor flood stage Wednesday afternoon if the area gets socked with the heavy rainfall that was predicted for overnight Tuesday.
Brian Frugis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Albany, on Tuesday forecast rainfall amounts of one to two inches across the county by late today.
The storm is traveling along a slow-moving front, which will allow for a period of heavy rainfall between Tuesday and Wednesday, he said. “Some of the areas that did have flooding have the potential to go back into flood stage,” Frugis said.
Among the potentially affected waterways include the West Canada Creek and the Mohawk River.
“The levels won’t be as high as what we had the other day, and there will be less impact,” he said. “Definitely the amount of rainfall we’re getting with this storm is not as extreme, but everything is so saturated and so high … It probably wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t had flooding.”
This is a separate storm system than the one that clobbered the area last week, spawning a tornado, causing flash flooding and spilling the West Canada Creek over its banks, Frugis said.
As of late-Tuesday afternoon, Vandawalker said preliminary estimates of storm damage to public infrastructure — including village, town and county roads and bridges — was about $515,000.
That figure is not yet complete, as some municipalities have yet to report.
Additionally, some storm-related tolls are still being assessed.
Russia Town Clerk Jeanne Barley noted damage stemming from the flash flooding of Cold Brook Stream last week was discovered at the town park on Route 8 on Tuesday. In addition to downed trees, washed-out trail bridges and a deposit of thick mud in at least one building were reported there.
Vandawalker said the state Department of Transportation separately reports any damage to state highway systems and bridges within the county, so total storm costs countywide could be much higher.
The tally isn’t expected to rise to the level of damages sustained during 2006 flooding, however. Vandawalker said municipalities within Herkimer County sustained millions of dollars of damage because the flooding was more widespread throughout the county. Also, several bridges were washed out.
As reported in the April 30 Times, the June 2006 flood along the Mohawk caused $20 million in damages in Herkimer County alone.
Locally, Vandawalker estimated 70 to 90 homes and businesses have been damaged as a result of last week’s storm, but that number is subject to change.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’re putting together the ‘public’ property [costs]. That has to come first. We’re getting pretty close to private properties next,” he said, noting countywide totals of damage to public infrastructure will be reported to the state.
If public damages across the state are high enough, the governor could ask the president to issue an emergency declaration, which would make federal emergency relief funds available.
Vandawalker was confident some help would be forthcoming.
He said, “This was very widespread from Pennsylvania to the Canadian border. I’m confident we’ll get some help. Other counties have a lot more damage” than Herkimer County.
He said private damages are handled much differently than damages to public infrastructure. While it’s still too early for “private recovery,” Vandawalker said individuals with private property damage can contact his office at 867-1212 “to get on the record.”
He also recommended flood victims photograph and document flood damage before initiating cleanup.
With the threat of new flooding in the immediate forecast, Vandawalker on Tuesday delivered sandbags to Cold Brook, where residents experienced damage to houses and cellars from rushing floodwaters last week.
Additionally, municipal work crews labored to restore area roadways to a pre-flood state.
State workers on the Gradall crew laboring along a stretch of Route 28 just south of Newport addressed shoulder repairs in front of a group of homes inundated with several feet of water from the West Canada Creek last week.
One of the workers, who wished to remain unidentified, said water was across the road there.
“The houses are devastated,” he said.
On Tuesday, Vandawalker said no one was left in evacuation centers. “If they weren’t able to move back into their homes, they moved in with relatives or found other resources,” he said.