Residents in the Lexington Green area of West Seneca are slogging through the damage that was dealt to them Saturday night, when the Buffalo Creek flooded, leaving as much as a few feet of water in some roadways and some basements.
Local fire departments helped residents pump water out of their basements today, while town highway crews worked to clear ice and other debris from the roads. As of early this afternoon, Brian Lane was still closed.
The cleeanup began as the National Weather Service first cancelled flood advisories, and then cancelled a winter weather advisory that had been in effect until mid-day today.
Seventy homes were affected this weekend in West Seneca, town officials said. Although many residents were encouraged to evacuate Saturday night, most remained in their houses. Only about a dozen people spent the night in a warming station at the Vigilant Fire Department, Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan said.
Huge chunks of ice created havoc amid the quick thaw from last week’s polar vortex, spurred by unusually high temperatures.
“There were boulders of ice blocks barreling through these neighborhoods,” Meegan said today. “This hasn’t happened since 1977.”
Town highway crews today were pulling chunks of ice out of the neighborhood and taking them to the town’s highway department to help clear Lexington Green, she said.
The flooding began around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, when the waters of the creek backed up through storm sewers, according to John Gullo, who oversees emergency operations for the town. At the peak of the flooding, there was as much as four or five feet of water in the streets, he said. The basements of many homes flooded, as well, to varying degrees. Houses on Gregory Drive saw anywhere from a couple of inches of water in the basement to six feet, Gullo said.
Elsewhere, flood advisories across Western New York were cancelled by the National Weather Service, as was a winter weather advisory for snow and freezing drizzle that forecasters warned could have caused for slippery travel where roads are untreated.
Several localized spots in Erie and Chautauqua counties had been under flood warnings late Saturday, with most of the area under a flood watch.
The winter weather advisory had covered southern Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
The flood warnings covered Cayuga Creek in Lancaster, Cazenovia Creek in Orchard Park, West Seneca and Colden, Buffalo Creek in Elma and Eighteen Mile Creek in the Town of Boston. Flooding in West Seneca led to the evacuation Saturday of some residents of Mineral Springs Road.
The Weather Service also had issued warnings for Silver Creek, along Silver and Walnut creeks, and along Route 60 between Fredonia and Cassadaga. All the warnings were expired by the end of Saturday.
Residents along Silver and Walnut creeks were briefly evacuated because of flooding that resulted from ice jams. Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said barricades on three streets – Dana, Rex and Oliver – were removed in the late afternoon and residents were allowed back in.
“The ice jam has moved through, so hopefully the danger is over,” Piccolo said late Saturday.
At Sunset Bay, disaster coordinator Steve D’Angelo was closely watching Cattaraugus Creek as two excavators broke up an accumulation of ice.
“I think we stirred it up enough to keep it moving,” D’Angelo said.
Reports of water and ice across Route 60 forced authorities to divert traffic Saturday morning between Fredonia and Cassadaga, Chautauqua County sheriff’s officials said.
Earlier Saturday, Route 5 between Lincoln Avenue in Lackawanna and Lake Avenue in Hamburg was closed, but that was blamed on a broken pipe in a water tank. The stretch was reopened later Saturday.
The flooding came as no surprise.
“From our end, it appears to be going as expected, but you don’t know specifically where and when it’s going to happen,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Hibbert said Saturday.
The flood watch for most of Western New York went into effect Saturday morning amid concerns about area creeks swollen by melting snow, rain, warm temperatures and ice jams.
“The potential is there for flooding, primarily due to ice jams,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Kelly said.
The flood watch covered Erie, Genesee, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties – areas that absorbed the brunt of the snow during last week’s blizzard. Niagara and Orleans counties were not included.
Kelly pointed to the ingredients that made for the flooding threat:
• Temperatures: The official high at the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga climbed to 50 degrees shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday.
• Rain: Saturday, about a half-inch of rain fell in the Buffalo area, with more in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
• The continuing snow melt: The snow depth fell from 9 inches Friday morning to 3 inches Saturday. At 1 p.m. Friday, the snow depth of 7 inches contained a water-content equivalent of 1.5 inches of rain.
• Ice jams: The rain, snow melt and warmth led to the break-up of ice in creeks.
The mixed bag continues through today, with rain, flurries and freezing drizzle possible into this morning. Conditions should improve this afternoon, with partly sunny skies and a high near 33 degrees.