Flash floods drench Erie County, snarl roads

Aug 21, 2019

A Flash Flood Warning brought 2"-3" of rain to Erie County within a 60-90 minute period Wednesday morning, with Kenmore, North Buffalo and Amherst getting the worst of it, according to the National Weather Service.

A Flash Flood Warning was issued by the NWS until 7 a.m. for north central Erie County. A Flood Warning continued for Erie and southwestern Niagara County until 10 a.m.

"Basically, what we had was one area of showers and thunderstorms move through," said NWS Meterologist Jason Alumbaugh. "If it would have been just been that one area, it would have been fine, but then another one developed right behind it."

Alumbaugh said the first area produced about 1-1/2" of rain "and we knew there'd be more rain right on top of that, so we knew there'd be no time for it to run off."

He said when such an amount falls on an urban area, there is no "soaking in, it just all goes to run-off."

Alumbaugh said the summer has been fairly dry, although there have been some areas that have been drenched.

"I think this is the 17th flash flood warning we've issued this summer," he said, "but for it to happen right in Buffalo, it definitely causes a lot of impact with all the people we have and the infrastructure that's in place here."

The good news is that the worst is over for the metro-Buffalo area. Alumbaugh said the main storms had moved off to the east by 6 a.m. However, it was pushing toward Lake Ontario, where flooding already is a concern with its record-high level this summer.

As the storms moved into the area, they knocked out power to many communities. At their peak, National Grid reported about 800 customers without power, mostly in the Kenmore/Town of Tonawanda. Power was restored by 7 a.m.

NYSEG reported another 450 customers without power, mostly in Clarence. About 50 customers remained in the dark by 9 a.m.

Numerous roads experienced flooding, especially under viaducts and at intersections. Buffalo Fire Commissioner Bill Renaldo reported that his crews were rescuing city motorists who were stranded.

Among the busiest roads impacted was the southbound 190 at the 290 exchange. It was closed to all traffic until about 6:30 a.m. because of flooding. One vehicle also spun out at the intersection due to the amount of water that accumulated.

Flooding also affected the northbound 190 near Ogden Street, where the left lane was closed due to flooding for morning commuters.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority reported major delays for its buses throughout the morning, but the Buffalo Niagara International Airport did not report delays for departing or arriving flights.

Buildings also had to keep a close watch on their sump pumps. Amherst Physical Therapy on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo told WBFO it had to close because of flooding and sewage backup.