Flooding could follow heavy snow in western New York

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 23, 2014 10:02 AM

By Mark Blinch

BUFFALO (Reuters) - Emergency workers filled thousands of sandbags on Sunday as the area around Buffalo, New York braced for potential flooding as warming temperatures began to melt up to seven feet (2 meters) of snow.

Hundreds of members of the New York National Guard were in Erie County and Buffalo to help with flood prevention after days of work to clear roads and dig homes and cars out of the record snow from a storm that killed 13 people.

The National Weather Service said roads could flood quickly from snow melt, since the storm blocked drains, and issued warnings for potential flooding of four rivers and creeks.

"We hope to get back to business on Monday. Government offices will be open. Schools will be open. We are sending teams of structural engineers in to inspect any school that might have the potential of a structural problem," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Sunday at a news briefing.

Cuomo said the state had prepared in case of widespread flooding, moving in hundreds of pumps, tens of thousands of sandbags and putting together a robust evacuation plan.

Three sandbagging machines and 176,500 sandbags were among the supplies taken to staging areas. Ellen Przepasniak, spokeswoman for the Erie County emergency operations effort, said sandbags would be quickly deployed to cities and towns that report rising waters.

State agencies have also deployed high axle vehicles that can drive on flooded roads, pumps, water bottles, a water tank and other emergency material, the governor's office said.

Roofs collapsed and some people were stuck in their cars for more than 24 hours when the heaviest snow fall in memory hit areas of New York state along the Great Lakes. The November storm system, dubbed the "Knife Storm," lasted for three days.

The National Weather Service said higher temperatures - rising to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) on Sunday and 60 F on Monday - could rapidly unlock up to 6 inches of water.

"Snowmelt is well underway and will continue through Monday. It is this snowmelt that will ultimately cause the flooding concerns," the weather service said on its web site.

"It is warming up already, it's in the 40s right now and based on the temperatures we've been dealing with, it's pretty balmy," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told CNN news on Sunday morning.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Andrew Roche)