A hint of spring that has descended on the Northeast has officials monitoring rivers, streams and flood-prone areas.
With recent temperatures in the 50s across most of New York’s Capital Region, area leaders are keeping their eyes on the potential for flash flooding and ice jams, which can lead to significant property damage. In Schenectady, Mayor Gary McCarthy says the Stockade District, an area prone to flooding via the Mohawk River, is always a concern. "As high water starts in the river or we see any movement or ice jams or related activity, we do physical monitoring and then also stand prepared to evaluate that then do evacuations or whatever the appropriate response is. We try and keep our fingers crossed that we're going to have a warming and a little bit of rain that will pass through the river without an issue but if there is one we're ready and able to react to it."
On a recent conference call with reporters, Governor Andrew Cuomo noted that state agencies are also monitoring known flood-prone areas. The Democrat instructed local governments to prepare for the "dramatic warming" and the dangers of potential flooding caused by ice jams. “The problem we’re anticipating is large chunks of ice that are thick, thicker than normal, larger than normal because of the extreme cold. And those pieces of ice, once they start to break up, can clog rivers and streams and create serious flooding. There is no easy answer to this solution, however, the one rule we've learned from the extreme weather situation is that it's all about preparation.”
For a complete listing of weather watches, warnings, advisories and latest forecasts, visit the National Weather Service website.
Cuomo said municipalities in need of ice-breaking equipment should contact the state Office of Emergency Management. On Monday night Cuomo announced that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is deploying drones to help assess ice jams. "Creeks, rivers, streams tend to back up in the same areas and cause flooding. Where there are overpasses, where there are bridges, where there are bends in the river, where there's debris in the river, logs, trees down, et cetera, any area where flow will normally back up."
The DEC is also addressing potential flooding threats by monitoring stream level forecasts and flood gauges on water bodies across the state. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos have given local governments the green light to break up ice unless it involves altering the course of a river or stream by excavating the banks. Seggos hopes to avoid a replay of late January when the ice flow on the Hudson River ripped boats from their moorings. Some ended up crashing into Capital Region bridges. "We've been working closely with State Police and DOT to scour the banks of the Hudson where this happened last week, make sure if any of the docks or boats that are tied up are tied up appropriately. At this point it looks good. We would certainly encourage anyone that has a floating structure, boat of any kind along any waterway to make sure it's tied down and out of harm's way. We don't expect a repeat of last week but certainly having the word out there right now to take precautions. Double knots and watch your craft and we'll be standing ready to help."
The Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, Canal Corporation and New York State Police are among the agencies monitoring conditions and on stand-by.
Motorists are reminded to check 511NY before traveling at or by downloading the mobile app. The free service allows users to check road conditions and features a winter travel advisory system with real-time travel reports and a color-coded map indicating which state roads are clear, wet or snow covered. The system provides motorists with a helpful resource to determine if travel is advisable.