Governor Andrew Cuomo urged local governments to prepare for possible ice jam flooding as warmer temperatures and precipitation move into the state on Monday. State agencies are monitoring ice jams and potential ice jam formations statewide, and are deploying assets as needed to assist in preventing and mitigating damage.
Local governments should contact the Department of Environmental Conservation for assistance with permits necessary to do work removing ice jams. DEC will be working in close coordination with the Department of Transportation, which has already begun deploying ten long arm excavators throughout the state to help break up ice jams over the weekend as temperatures rise.
For equipment requests and other assistance, local governments should contact their county emergency manager who will process requests through the New York Responds system. Residents of areas that are prone to ice jam flooding should take precautions and monitor local weather forecasts for changing conditions.
“Following a week of severe winter weather, temperatures are now expected to rise dramatically and create the potential for flooding, especially from ice jams,” Governor Cuomo said. “State agencies have already been in contact with local governments throughout the state to monitor flood prone areas and assist with any problems that may arise. That said, it is also critical for residents to stay informed, monitor the weather and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, their families and their homes.”
Ice jams occur when pieces of floating ice obstruct a river or stream’s flow, causing flooding either downstream or upstream. Water that is held back by ice obstructions can cause flooding upstream, while melting ice jams due to warmer temperatures can cause flooding downstream as well. These “break-up jams” usually cause the most flooding. Flash flooding and ice jams themselves can lead to significant property damage, potentially destroying homes.
Temperatures across the State are expected to increase starting Sunday and continuing through Tuesday with temperatures climbing to 40 degrees or higher in most places. These temperature increases will likely cause some snowmelt and ice movement on rivers and streams. Monday evening will bring rain showers with light accumulations expected, however this coupled with snow and ice melt may lead to ice breakup on waterways, adding to the ice jam flood threat. Flood Watches have been issued for Western New York and will be in affect late Sunday night through late Wednesday night.
Tuesday evening temperatures will fall back into the 20s and 30s. Another potential weather system may move through the State later in the week that could produce additional mixed precipitation for several areas. Residents near areas prone to ice jam flooding should monitor local weather forecasts for the most up-to-date information. For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website.
Department of Environmental Conservation
Prior to the anticipated thaw, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) encourages municipal officials to immediately undertake local assessments of potential ice jams in flood-prone areas and to remove any debris. DEC permits and authorization are not required to remove debris unless stream banks or beds will be disturbed by debris removal and/or the use of heavy equipment. Municipalities and local governments are advised to contact DEC’s Regional Permit Administrators (https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/39381.html) if any assistance is required or to help determine if a permit is necessary.
In the event of an emergency situation, DEC stands ready to approve Emergency Authorizations to expedite approval of projects on an expedited basis in place of an individual permit, and generally these authorizations can be issued within 24 hours. DEC approves Emergency Authorizations for situations that are deemed an emergency based on the immediate protection of life, health, general welfare, property, or natural resources. Additional information is available on the DEC website at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/96337.html. Emergency authorization are issued with suitable conditions to protect the environment.
DEC continues to work with partner agencies and localities throughout the state to respond to flooding and ice jams. DEC is deploying drones to assist with the assessment of ice jams. DEC experts are identifying flood-prone areas, including creeks and streams, where snowmelt and rain could cause damaging flooding. DEC is monitoring stream level forecasts and flood gauges on creeks, streams, and rivers to assess flooding risks and respond to potential flooding that would activate any of the 106 Flood Control Projects that DEC maintains and operates across New York State. In addition, DEC is monitoring wastewater treatment plants throughout the state based on risk conditions and staff are ready to respond to any emergencies caused by flooding.
For additional information about resources for local officials and emergency managers, visit the DEC website https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/115140.html.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is prepared to respond to requests for assistance with assets from its stockpiles, including:
- Over 730 generators
- Nearly 1,300 pumps
- Over 2 million sandbags
- 20 sandbaggers
- 6,771 feet of Aquadam
Department of Transportation
New York State Department of Transportation staff are on alert and working with State and local partners to respond to any flooding impacts immediately. Department staff are actively monitoring more than a dozen known problem areas and taking action as necessary to mitigate flooding. 14 long arm excavators are being strategically located throughout the state to help break up ice jams over the weekend as temperatures rise.
Earlier this month, the Department worked with its partners at the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to assist the Village of Whitesboro in Oneida County when ice jams caused water to be swept over the banks of the Sauquoit Creek and impact a CSX rail bridge. While the waters have receded, it remains an area of concern and the Department is actively engaged with CSX and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on potential preventive measures to mitigate future flooding. Last week, Governor Cuomo issued a letter to CSX threatening legal action if the bridge is not rebuilt.
Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.
Thruway Authority staff are actively inspecting drainage systems are monitoring for potential flooding. Staff are prepared to respond to any flooding issues statewide with more than 669 operators and supervisors, small to medium sized excavators, plow/dump trucks, large loaders, and a number of portable VMS boards, portable light towers, smaller generators, smaller pumps and equipment hauling trailers, as well as signage and other traffic control devices available for any detours or closures.
The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app which is available to download for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. For real-time updates, motorists can follow @ThruwayTraffic on Twitter or by visiting www.thruway.ny.gov to see an interactive map showing traffic conditions for the Thruway and other New York State roadways.
New York Canal Corporation
The New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of NYPA, continues to communicate with hydropower entities along the state Canal System regarding changes in releases and conditions as well as developing hazards. The Canal Corporation has taken pre-emptive actions statewide to mitigate potential flood impacts throughout the system and staff is closely monitoring known ice jam locations including known locations along the Mohawk River.
The Canal Corporation has a contractor on standby to send to Erie Canal Locks 8-10 in Schenectady and Montgomery counties to remove accumulated ice jams adjacent to the locks if they were to occur.
New York State Police
State Troopers will be monitoring rivers and streams that are prone to ice jams and flooding. Troopers are ready to be deployed in case flooding occurs. All four-wheel drive vehicles are in service, and snowmobiles, Utility Task Vehicles and boats are ready for deployment as needed.
Below are flood preparation safety tips:
- Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
- Develop and practice a ‘family escape’ plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.
- Make an itemized list – as well as potentially photo and video documentation — of all valuables including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
- Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers
- Plan what to do with your pets.
- Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.
- Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
- Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
- Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
- Check on your insurance coverage. Homeowners’ insurance policies generally do not cover flood damages. Only flood insurance can protect your home against flood damages. You can purchase flood insurance whether or not you live in a mapped flood zone.
For a complete list of weather terms and preparation ideas before during and after a flood, visit the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/flood/floodprepare.cfm.