Gowanda, Silver Creek and North Collins – areas hit hard by flooding today – should see rains taper off, but could see a return of heavy showers Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Areas north of Cattaraugus Creek may see a band of scattered showers and possible thunderstorms later this evening.
“So far it’s not a house-damaging day. It’s a yard cleanup day,” said Silver Creek resident Mike Pagano. “But, the day ain’t over yet.”
An avalanche of water in Gowanda – and memories of terrible flooding that occurred in August 2009 – prompted Mayor Heather McKeever to declare a state of emergency this morning.
Thirty homes were flooded, and two senior citizens were evacuated from their homes.
“Right now, we are experiencing flooding due to an overload of water, and the water continues to rise,” McKeever said. “We are trying to deal with the amount of rain that is falling by shutting down the village and not allowing any traffic in.
“The one scenario we can’t prevent is the amount of rain. We did all we could to free our waterways and remove debris, but we are sitting in a valley and everything filters down to us,” he said.
Residents were asked to conserve water after officials shut down the reservoir due to the flooding. Last month, Gowanda implemented a code red system, utilizing phone and email to alert residents of dangerous weather conditions.
Gowanda School Superintendent Charles Rinaldi walked around the high school football field, surveying the damage and wondering whether it would be fit for next month’s graduation ceremony.
“The track is like a big English muffin, and the mud is like butter,” Rinaldi said.
Nearby, Tom Harrison was power washing his front lawn. “The village isn’t addressing the problem. It’s not as bad as 2009, but it’s bad enough,” he said, suggesting infrastructure changes are needed to protect residents.
The village of 2,800 was hardly alone in experiencing flooding this morning.
The National Weather Service extended flash flood warnings for northwestern Cattaraugus, northeastern Chautauqua and southern Erie counties expired at 12:15 p.m. It also warned of additional showers and thunderstorms through the afternoon.
Some roads are closed in that area, with about two inches of rain having fallen since midnight.
“If you are down in those areas and you see water on the road, flowing across the road or even standing on the road, don’t drive through it, turn around,” meteorologist Dan Kelly said.
In Silver Creek, Mayor Nick Piccolo said the ballpark area, Rex Place, Lincoln Street and the area around the municipal building were all experiencing high water due to the heavy rains. The areas have experienced flooding before, and residents were urged to use caution.
A flash flood warning was in effect until 3 p.m.
“We had a burst of flooding come through after the flood warning was issued around 7:45, and our water levels rose about 18 inches in 20 minutes,” Silver Creek Fire Chief James Tytka said. “The water ran over its banks and spilled out onto neighboring properties along Central Avenue toward the Silver Creek fire department. Route 5 was impassable between Howard Street and Parkway, and the trailer park on Silver Creek was temporarily evacuated before being allowed back in.”
Fire Chief James Tytka said he called in the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department’s marine rescue team as several areas in the village were evacuated.
Residents were evacuated from a trailer park at the foot of Oak Hill on Central Avenue along with neighbors on Lincoln Avenue, Rix Place and Dana Place.
Tytka said he was watching the creek waters as the village is anticipating another surge of water when rain water from Arkwright and other areas further south flow into the creek.
Piccolo said crews would be cleaning up mud and other debris left behind as the high storm waters flooded the streets in the neighborhoods where evacuations also took place.
Chautauqua County Disaster Coordinator Julius Leone also was on the scene helping with efforts.
Tytka said he will remain on alert throughout the week as heavy rains are predicted through Thursday.
Pagano, who lives on a Central Avenue, said he was expecting another round of water in the mid afternoon hours. He said it usually takes about four hours for the waters from Randolph to make their way to Silver Creek.
Another Central Avenue neighbor, Ken Lashua, said his nearly 20 years living in a one-story brick house there taught him to be ready when the creek rises.
“If it’s right up there, I leave,” Lashua said.
Pagano said it is at least the fourth time since November that the creek has spilled over its banks.
“They need to build a retaining wall or something,” he said.
A 30-year resident of Central Avenue, Pagano has become used to mobilizing quickly to save property. Today he had about 45 minutes to get his children’s toys and bicycles out of the yard, as well as equipment associated with his electrical contracting business.
“We got blasted,” Pagano said of this morning’s rain storm and flooding.
Still, it didn’t begin to compare with the flooding that occurred in Silver Creek in 2009.
Pagano remembers his finished basement being totally inundated with water back then. He, his five children and two dogs had to be rescued by a bucket loader after water quickly surrounded them and shorted out a tractor they tried to escape in.
In the Town of North Collins, the intersection of Shirley Road and Route 62 and a part of Ketchum Road were flooded, along with parts of Sherman Avenue and the intersection of Park and Harrison and Gurney Avenue in the village.
Mike Perry, the village’s public works supervisor, said the flooding began dissipating around 10 a.m.
In Erie County, Route 5 was closed from Route 20 to Old Lake Shore Road up to 5 p.m. today.
Chautauqua Correspondent Susan Chiappone contributed to this report.