Extreme rain signals future flooding in the North Country
By Chloe Bennett and Jak Krouse
Severe storms in New York have closed roads and knocked out power in several communities in the North Country and beyond and Gov. Kathy Hochul placed several Adirondack counties in the category of disaster emergency regions.
Hard-hit areas, including Clinton, Hamilton and Essex counties, were in a state of emergency because of flash flooding and road damage from heavy rains. Local officials in the Long Lake area shut down a key road and popular beach area.
At the start of the week, Hochul focused on problems in Orange and Ontario counties because of life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rains. She added North County counties and several other counties to the emergency designation.
The effects of torrential rain disrupted the Adirondacks and endangered motorists and residents and some park officials have needed to deal with floods. Hochul declared that “a disaster is occurring for which the affected local governments are unable to respond adequately,” on Monday.
On Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation announced closures of:
- State Route 28N/State Route 30 from Blue Mountain Lake to Long Lake;
- State Route 28N from Long Lake to Newcomb;
- State Route 30 from Long Lake to the Franklin County line.
The town of Long Lake issued an emergency warning about the spillway dam on Jennings Park Pond to Long Lake becoming breached. Anyone north of the bridge in Long Lake, should seek higher ground, the town said.
The town’s Facebook page alerts that travel in the main intersection of State Route 30 and Route 28N and Main Street is for emergency vehicles only. It reported the 28N from Long Lake to Newcomb is closed in both directions, a breach on Route 30 Main Street between Hoss’s Country Corner and the Long Lake Diner and that North Point Road is closed.
“Property owners along Mix Road, Kickerville, Rice, Langley Park, Keller Bay Way should evacuate to higher ground,” the notice said. “Power lines along Newcomb Road are down.”
Ticonderoga notified the public that its sewage treatment system overflowed due to the heavy rains, affecting the Lachute River. Twenty gallons per minute of untreated sewage discharged for six hours into the river on Monday, according to the notice on the NY-Alert site of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
The towns of Saranac and Dannemora declared a state of emergency and experienced road closures and high water levels over the past few days. Saranac Town Supervisor Tim Napper said that the town has already suffered several hundred thousand dollars in damages and is bracing to be hit by more rain and flooding over the coming days.
“It’s just phenomenal how bad some of the erosion is,” Napper said. “I’m 71 years old and I’ve never seen the Saranac River run the way it is today.”
State Route 3 was shut down through Saranac Sunday evening and Pup Hill Road, recently replaced with a new blacktop, experienced erosion down to depths of 4 feet.
Dannemora Highway Superintendent Mark Siskavich has spent the last few days playing damage control.
“They’ve been long days,” Siskavich said. “Another township will come in and help us and then we’ll go help them because they’ll lose roads the next day. It’s been a never-ending cycle for the last week and a half.”
In Upper Chateaugay Lake, water levels rose about 3 feet. Spots along Boomhower Road and Sunset Road have been washed out multiple times over the last week according to Siskavich.
The Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake also told Instagram followers it is temporarily closed.
The Long Lake beach is cordoned off because of safety concerns in the Long Lake area. Photo by Tracy Ormsbee
At least one person in New York has been killed as a result of the heavy rainfall, according to Orange County officials.
What does the future of rain and flooding look like in the Northeast?
The past few decades have trended toward heavier rainfall, Arthur Degaetano, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Regional Climate Center said. Predictions based on scientific data show the Northeast is expected to become wetter because of climate change. Warmer air holds more moisture and causes more rainfall. That rain is mostly coming from oceans, Degaetano said, which are also warming and making evaporation easier.
“You have more of that raw material to work with, so you get heavier rainfall,” said Degaetano, who is also a professor of atmospheric science at Cornell University.
The potential damage and overall rainfall could be comparable to Hurricanes Ida and Irene from years past, Degaetano said. But the weather systems are different because the current weather isn’t caused by a tropical storm but by an atmospheric pattern coming from the New England coast.
To prepare for extreme rain and flooding, the state suggests having disaster supplies such as flashlights, food and water on hand. The National Weather Service advises against driving or walking during severe flooding.
“While the storm has already passed through the southern part of New York, conditions remain dangerous in further north where there are ongoing extreme weather conditions,” Hochul said in a press release. “I urge all New Yorkers to remain vigilant, monitor local forecasts and have an evacuation plan ready if you’re in a danger zone.”
The governor said a $6.2 million project has started on the historic Carpenter’s Flats Bridge, which carries State Route 9 over the Ausable River in Clinton County. The project will raise the steel truss bridge by three-and-a-half feet and make other improvements to reduce the impact of ice jams and instances of flooding and enhance safety on this path in Peru on the western shore of Lake Champlain.
“As we’ve seen in the aftermath of the recent flooding and road damage in Clinton County, a substantial investment is needed in our local infrastructure,” Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said in statement hailing the roadwork.
DEC officials said Tuesday it is on watch for problems with dams and among woodlands hikers in Hamilton and Essex counties. They said they’ve received no reports of dam issues that pose an active threat to public safety at this time. DEC emergency managers and dam safety experts are investigating reports of high water at dams and potential damage or breaches at a few low hazard dams in the Long Lake and Newcomb area, DEC said.
Rangers are making welfare checks and checking DEC roads and trailheads in the two counties. “Rangers are also assessing damage and developing plans for potential evacuations should they be necessary,” DEC said, adding the department has not received information about stranded hikers.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include more counties in the governor’s State of Emergency and Disaster Emergency, and again to provide information on Long Lake’s situation, the Lachute River discharge, the Peru bridge improvement project and DOT and DEC information.