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Flood Watch puts West Seneca in ice-breaking mode

Mike Desmond
The state sent in a long-arm excavator to help break up the ice on Buffao Creek.

There was a large, state long-arm excavator digging away in Buffalo Creek Sunday, as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan talked to reporters about what was being done to make sure the thawing of snow and shifting of ice didn't create flooding in the town.

The excavator was used on eight different bridges around the town to make sure ice didn't jam up underneath and back up the fast-flowing water into flooding.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (left) and West Seneca Town Supervisor updated the media on flood preparations.

"In the past, in order to do what's being done here today, you would have needed a permit from the State Office of Environmental Conservation, the State DEC," said Hochul. "The governor, yesterday, waived that requirement. That gives the municipalities, like here in West Seneca, the ability to do what they need to do to be pro-active and move the ice without waiting for any government bureaucracy."

Hochul said the state is familiar with flooding issues, unfortunately.

"We spent a lot of time last year up on Lake Ontario, the previous year, trying to sandbag and save properties when the water levels reached unprecedented levels," Hochul said. "We're actually in a time, now, when extreme weather is no longer the exception. It's becoming the norm. The extreme cold, a blizzard, followed by 40-50 degree temperatures. I don't remember that happening in my lifetime."

West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan said the section of Buffalo Creek where the excavator was breaking up ice is one of the long-time flooding problems.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The ice is thick in Buffalo Creek.

"We also look at Cazenovia Creek near the Southgate Plaza, Parkside Drive. We've offered sandbagging over there," Meegan said. "But the state put about $1 million in over the past year. So, hopefully, that is still going to do its job. This is really what we're confronted with, unfortunately. We've had a few dress rehearsals and, hopefully, we don't see the big show again."

The town has been working with the City of Buffalo. The city is using the fireboat Cotter to make sure ice doesn't lock up on the Buffalo River and cause flooding back into West Seneca on Buffalo Creek or Cazenovia Creek.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for nearly all of Western New York through late Wednesday night.

Record to near-record breaking warmth is expected Monday. Temperatures across Western New York will reach the upper 50s to lower 60s. These temperatures will result in extensive snow melt. A period of rain will also occur Monday night, although rainfall amounts will be light and less than a quarter inch.

The NWS said the primary risk for flooding will be due to ice jams. Area creeks and rivers have thick ice in place. Rises in water level from snow melt can break up this ice, which can then become jammed where there are constrictions in the river or creek channel, such as curves or at bridges. People living in areas that are prone to ice jam flooding should prepare for the potential for flooding through Wednesday night.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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