West Seneca homes evacuated as ice jams cause flooding

Feb 5, 2019

The flooding hit Monday, as melting snow and floating ice jammed up in creeks across Erie County, particularly in West Seneca where a few homes were evacuated near Clinton and Union.

Emergency officials evacuated several homes due to flooding
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The flooding occurred from Hamburg to Evans to West Seneca, none of it extensive. In West Seneca, five homes on Jackberry and School were evacuated from a small community on the edge of Buffalo Creek behind 14 Holy Helpers Church.

Union Fire Company Chief Peter Stachowski said his volunteers helped evacuate residents and opened a warming shelter.

"We've been pre-planning for the past three, four days, so we on Saturday and Sunday, we met with the town and other fire chiefs in the area," Stachowski said. "Basically, pre-planning for everything and then for the past couple of nights we have been doing our drive-arounds monitoring everything. So it looked good today and, then, all of a sudden, literally, we left this area five minutes before it happened and all of a sudden we got thrown back out. The area was flooding. We were somewhat surprised."

Water covers the street in front of homes.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Emergency officials said it was a burst of water and ice moving down the creek from beyond Borden Road in spurts, flooding the Burchfield Center and then hitting a roadblock of old ice and jamming up, around three in the afternoon.

"The ice apparently working its way down gets to a point where it gets a pinch point, happened to be right over here by Burchfield," said Erie County Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, "and it had a little bit of a backup and then a quick release of water and overflow into this particular area and then just as quickly as it came, it started to go back."

Town Emergency Manager Peter Spilsbury said it happens quickly.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Ice jams change and move fast. The dynamics of 'em is unbelievable. Fine one minute and not fine the next," Spilsbury said. "What happened today was water backed up off of Clinton Street up into Elma. Something broke loose. Torrent of ice came down. I guess it hit the Union Road bridge at Clinton so hard some of the ice and water was coming over the bridge."

Emergency officials were planning patrols all night, worrying that the water and ice would flow down Buffalo Creek to the traditional trouble spot of Lexington Green, an area heavily outfitted with precautions against flooding.

Once the ice and water gets past there, it's basically into Buffalo where the fireboat Cotter can break the ice all the way up to where Buffalo Creek and Cazenovia Creek merge to form the Buffalo River. Colder weather Tuesday is expected to help by easing the melting and allowing water to flow.