From June 27 overnight into the morning hours of June 28, a low pressure storm system moved from Pennsylvania into New York State. Dropping heavy amounts of rain, some areas saw 5 or more inches in a few hours; I posted this diary in anticipation of the storm.
The aftermath is not pretty. More below the Orange Omnilepticon.
By Friday afternoon, the skies were clearing with some sunshine between the clouds. With the coming of daylight, damage assessments began to come in. Herkimer and Montgomery counties along the Mohawk River got hammered; there was plenty of damage elsewhere. Governor Cuomo has declared a state of disaster. (Details here)
The Times Union reports the New York State Thruway was nearly closed; the state barge canal is currently closed as the surge of storm water moves east to the Hudson. (Pictures of the damage at the link.)
Heavy rains Thursday and into early Friday caused the Mohawk River to overflow it banks where it traverses the southern end of Herkimer County, located 60 miles east of Syracuse. At Little Falls, the river was more than 3 feet above flood stage late Friday morning and was expected to keep rising until about 2 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.More pictures here, courtesy of the Utica Observer Dispatch.
Meanwhile, sections of the Thruway, the state's main east-west highway, were surrounded by flooding though police said the roadway remained open in both directions. The flooding also forced state officials to hold off on reopening a section of the Erie Canal that had been closed by previous high water.
WRGB CBS-6 has video of some of the damage. Little Falls saw extensive damage, not just from rising river waters. Runoff coming down from the hills around the town flooded the streets; drainage culverts under the streets and buildings could not handle the pressure. There were a number of blowouts. The town of Fort Plain also saw extensive flooding.
To add insult to injury, although the weather system has moved on up into Maine, afternoon thunderstorms are popping up over the area, dropping more rain onto the cleanup efforts. Because so much of the ground is saturated, what under ordinary circumstances would be just a passing storm can turn into flash flooding in a hurry.
In an unrelated event which is also not helping, a CSX train derailment near Fonda, New York on Thursday is blocking east-west traffic including Amtrak service on a major rail line which runs through the region.
Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Tracy Zents said Clearfield and Jefferson counties declared disaster emergencies and were working with Gov. Tom Corbett's office on a wider declaration.Steve Bauer at StateCollege.com has video showing the impact of the storm in State College, PA.
Seven to 8 inches of rain fell in parts of Jefferson County on Thursday, Zents said. And the area remained under a flood warning into Friday night.
The weather service said the twister that touched down about 4 p.m. Thursday hit a farm in Boalsburg, west of Route 322. At 100 mph winds, it pulled a tree out of the ground and tore metal roofing from several buildings.
The Dubois area, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, appeared to be among the hardest hit Thursday. Rains forced the evacuation of a hotel and other buildings. Evacuations were conducted also in towns southwest of Dubois, including Sykesville and Big Run.
NOTE: This was not a tropical storm, the aftermath of a hurricane - this was just a big storm that dropped a lot of water in the course of a few hours. In the towns hit by the storm, streets turned to raging rivers in just a few hours. People awakened to the sound of rushing water. There have been no reports of fatalities yet, but there were a few people who had to be rescued.
Is this climate change at work? Cause and effect can't be traced to make a definite link to this one event - but a warming earth means weather patterns are in flux. We can put less and less reliance on past records to predict the future. We have aging infrastructure that is less and less able to deal with this kind of event - and may not have been built to do so in the first place. If this kind of event becomes more common in this region, there are a lot of towns that may have to consider rebuilding away from flood plains and water courses, for the long term.
And it's not just the damage to infrastructure. A lot of the region hit by the storm is devoted to agriculture - this is going to have an effect on food production, especially if an event like this comes at the wrong time in the growing season. NPR's Morning Edition had a story on mega-disasters; one incident shows how an extreme weather event can have lasting impact.
The difference between a disaster and a mega-disaster is scope, the scientists say. For example, Hurricane Sandy was defined as a disaster because it caused significant flooding in New York and New Jersey last year, says Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey. But the flooding was nothing like what happened to California in the winter of 1861 and 1862, she says.It will be interesting to see if this gets much attention on the national news in America tonight. Without major cities being taken out, or a significant body count, probably not - it lacks the scope of a mega-disaster. But like the old boiling frog analogy, cumulative effects from a series of weather events comparable to this will eventually force us to pay attention.
"It rained for 45 days straight," Jones says, creating a lake in the state's central valleys that stretched for 300 miles. The flooding "bankrupted the state, destroyed the ranching industry, drowned 200,000 head of cattle [and] changed California from a ranching economy to a farming economy," she says.
Business as usual will not be an option if this keeps up.
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