WNY prepares for another round of floods: High Wind Warning posted

Feb 20, 2014

With a warming trend on the way that is expected to melt the region's thick snowpack, local municipalities are bracing for potential flooding.

Crews, including members of the Buffalo Police Department's underwater squad, used chain saws Wednesday to break through the ice to ease water flow on nearby creeks and rivers.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told WBFO News that his administration's emergency team is communicating with officials in towns where flooding may occur.

"We do know that in past situations towns have gone out to try to break up ice jams. Unfortunately, what happened after the blizzard affected the people in the one neighborhood in West Seneca," Poloncarz said.

"There's only so much we can do to prevent a flood from happening. If we've learned anything from the past is that you can't stop Mother Nature from doing what she's going to do. But the best thing we can do is be prepared."

 The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Warning until 5pm Friday for much of Western New York. More than an inch of rain was recorded Thursday at the airport weather station. Additional rainfall early Friday, combined with snow melt, could cause flooding in poor drainage areas.

"The county really has limited resources to do this. We really have to rely on the towns, the city and the villages," Poloncarz said.

"But we can offer assistance, including what is the best way to do it (break up ice jams, prepare for floods) and that's what we are doing right now."  
Poloncarz cites the 70 flooded homes that suffered extreme damage in West Seneca's Lexington Green neighborhood as an example of why emergency relief standards need to be modified. Though the homes endured hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, the event is considered to be too small to qualify for most state or federal disaster relief aid. 

Those residents are now eligible for low-interest SBA loans.

The National Weather Service also issued a High Wind Warning for Erie, Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties starting at 7a.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Friday.  Overnight into late Friday evening winds will be out of the southwest from 25 to 35 miles per hour with gust of up to 60 miles per hour. 

Forecasters say those strong winds have the potential to bring down some trees and power lines and could result in scattered power outages in the region.  It could also make travel difficult in high profile vehicles along the New York State Thruway.  WBFO will keep you posted on all changing weather conditions.