Buffalo braces for flooding as warming trend follows record snow
WATCH ABOVE: If the two metres of snow weren’t enough for Buffalo, now forecasters have issued a flood watch for this part of New York state. The temperatures are expected to rise. And, as Aarti pole reports, emergency crews are now arriving with sandbags.
BUFFALO, N.Y. – After a three-day onslaught that dumped a historic 2.1 metres of snow on the Buffalo area and killed at least 12 people, the sun came out, but so did predictions of flooding caused by rain and temperatures of up to 15 C.
Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said there might be trouble with drainage as snow and the uncollected autumn leaves underneath blocked catch basins.
WATCH: With temperatures expected to rise in New York State, crews are racing to clear the streets of snow before it melts and causes massive flooding.
“The biggest flood threat would be on Monday when temperatures are at their warmest,” he said. “There could be general urban flooding.”
The water tied up in the snowpack – roughly the equivalent of six inches (15 centimetres) of rain – could be released over the course of two days, said deputy Erie County executive Richard Tobe.
He said flooding would likely affect mostly basements and creeks.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Sunday to Wednesday.
“We are preparing now for more flooding than we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the state was sending in pumps, boats, helicopters and high-axle vehicles that can operate in 1.2 to 1.5 metres of water.
“If we’re lucky we won’t need any of it,” he said. “But prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
WATCH: Concern in Buffalo turns to the weekend weather forecast.
The snow remained a huge challenge. Hundreds of volunteers formed a “shovel brigade” to help people, especially some of the elderly, free cars and homes from snow drifts.
“They’re like angels,” said Kevin Masterson, 61, after a handful of volunteers swarmed in to free his and his brother-in-law’s cars from the drifts. “I was out shovelling and … all of the sudden I had all these people.”
Seneca Street in south Buffalo was jammed with dump trucks, military vehicles and front loaders rumbling through the streets as they hauled away the canyon walls of snow.
Officials urged people to put off nonessential travel so snow removal efforts could progress. The state Thruway, however, was fully reopened Saturday – four days after a 212-kilometre stretch of the interstate highway had to be closed because of the massive snowfall that left a number of motorists stranded.
The storm has been blamed for at least a dozen deaths and more than 30 major roof collapses, most involving farm and flat-roof buildings. Authorities warned that rain forecast for Saturday and Monday would add to the weight and strain on buildings.
Associated Press Writer Carolyn Thompson contributed to this report.
© 2014 The Associated Press