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Southern Tier communities clean up in wake of Tropical Storm Fred

The flooded front lawn of a Mennonite church
Vaughn Golden
This lawn of a Mennonite church retained water well into the day Thursday.

Residents across parts of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes are cleaning up from flash flooding Wednesday night spurred by Tropical Storm Fred.

Several inches of rain fell in parts of Steuben County, triggering flash flood warnings which dotted much of the region. The impact was largely localized flooding along smaller streams and tributaries west of Elmira, though the Chemung River quickly swelled beyond normal water levels.

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, Steuben County issued a state of emergency in the Village of Addison as the Tuscarora Creek rapidly began to rise. By 10:30 p.m., resident’s on Addison’s south side were ordered to evacuate as water approached the top of the levees protecting the village.

Though the water stopped a few feet below the levees, narrowly preventing the village from a much broader disaster, areas upstream did not escape the flooding.

Debris collected on a bridge along state Route 417, southwest of Addison. Mary Lou Knowles lives several hundred yards away from the bridge. She said she could hear tree branches and other debris flowing downstream until eventually it dammed up at the bridge, causing the creek to back up and reroute toward her home.

Vaughn Golden
Floodwaters were strong enough to topple trees.

“We actually heard the debris on the bridge,” Knowles said, standing around the several inches of mud that now surrounds her home. “And then, we stopped hearing it so we looked in our lower yard and that’s when we noticed the river. We just had enough time to get our cats out and then we took off.”

Knowles said the water nearly reached the top of her finished basement, but did not reach the second floor.

“Now here we’re just picking up the pieces,” Knowles said.

Additionally, the road in front of Knowles’ home that connects to state Route 417 is washed out, leaving them with a single, less maintained back road to escape.

“I’ve lived here 45 years and never seen anything like it,” Herb Wright said, as he tried to get his pressure washer started.

Wright lives downstream from the bridge and got water in his basement and garage. He slept in his truck overnight with his four dogs, and was relieved to see the water stayed out of his first floor the next morning.

“A lot of people are a lot worse off than us. We’re just kind of cleaning up, and I had to get a lot of stuff out of the garage anyways,” Wright said with a chuckle.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Steuben County Thursday and dispatched several state agencies to assist in the recovery effort.

Vaughn Golden
A section of the road washed away after water backed up at the state Route 417 bridge.