“Unprecedented” amounts of ice in the upper Niagara River and a resulting ice jam caused flooding on Grand Island and Cayuga Island in Niagara Falls Tuesday.
A flash-flood warning issued Tuesday morning was to remain in effect until later Tuesday night for northwest Erie County and southwest Niagara County, along the east branch of the Niagara River.
Low-lying areas of the Robert Moses Parkway and the LaSalle Expressway were flooded and closed Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Sections of several streets on Cayuga Island were flooded, including Griffon Avenue, South 89th Street and South 91st Street. “Conditions are unstable and could worsen,” the Weather Service said in a warning issued Tuesday afternoon.
If water levels continue to rise, flooding will worsen across much of Cayuga Island, in the vicinity of the LaSalle Yacht Club at South 68th Street and Buffalo Avenue, and in the Baseline Road area on Grand Island, the Weather Service said.
Residents were told to monitor water levels closely and be prepared to seek higher ground. “It sounds like the water is going slowly up,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock said Tuesday afternoon.
Storm drains were backing up because of the ice blockage in the Niagara River, located between Cayuga Island and the New York Power Authority water intakes.
Ice breakers from both the United States and Canada had been out since midnight, a Power Authority spokeswoman said.
The Little River in Niagara Falls near the South 86th Street bridge looked ready to crest early Tuesday afternoon.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto reported to him that the ice in the river was “unprecedented.” Police will be stationing an officer on Cayuga Island, and the city will also be stationing crews from public works.
There’s a flood gauge at the LaSalle Yacht Club on 68th Street at Buffalo Avenue that at midmorning was indicating no damage yet.
Dyster said an evacuation was not warranted as of late Tuesday morning, but authorities will keep a close eye on the situation.
Hitchcock said that Cayuga Island is probably the most vulnerable to widespread flooding. “It’s so flat,” he explained.
Weather Service meteorologists also issued a lake-effect snow advisory through 1 a.m. for all of Niagara County as well as Orleans County. The snow band over the Northtowns of Erie County was expected to drift northward, dropping as much as three to five inches of snow before shifting back south.
On Grand Island, residents were reporting to Town Hall high water levels near their homes on the river and near Woods Creek.
By Tuesday afternoon, water was creeping up onto lawns on the north end of the Island at East River Road across from Cayuga Island, as well as near Baseline and Long roads, which back up to Woods Creek.
“The last thing you’re thinking about is flooding because any water is frozen solid,” said Mary Cooke, Grand Island supervisor. “That was before we heard about the ice jam.”
Freezing temperatures also led to isolated water main breaks on Fix Road, on the west end of Whitehaven Road and two on Ferry Road. Some town residents were without water, but crews worked steadily in hopes of restoring service before the end of the day.