DOLGEVILLE – The flooding in Dolgeville started when an ice jam broke free, passed under the Route 29 Bridge and traveled around a bend in the East Canada Creek. The rushing water wasn’t far behind.
“I’ll tell you it comes up in a hurry. When people see a video it’s one thing, but when you see it live it’s totally different,” said Dolgeville Deputy Mayor Bill Reynolds. “It’s a whitewater rafter’s dream – definitely class-five rapids. And it was taking huge chunks of ice with it until it would hit a block where the ice all jammed up again.”
That was last Thursday. Six days later the flooding issues in the village, which sits in Herkimer and Fulton counties, had not totally subsided, with 13 residences having to be evacuated multiple times and a National Weather Service flood warning in effect through 9 p.m. Wednesday. Reynolds described ice and water cutting channels through existing ice, exposing walls that stand 12 feet above the water level.
To be sure, no one has been hurt and water was never higher than basement level, said Herkimer County Emergency Services Director John Raymond. Fulton County Emergency Management Director Steven Santa Maria said his crews also helped to evacuate the residents and pump out basements.
Reynolds said the residents in the eight affected homes on Van Buren Street and the five affected homes on Dolge Avenue were allowed to return to their homes as of Wednesday afternoon, but several had chosen not to because water in basements destroyed furnaces. As of Wednesday afternoon, Reynolds said there was still approximately 6 inches of standing water on street level–no longer an immediate threat but still enough water to warrant caution given the unpredictability of ice jams.
Raymond said that threat led to the decision to keep the flood warning in effect into Wednesday night, even as the risk of high water lowered with dropping temperatures.
“Because the creek is still over its banks, what we decided was let’s leave the flood warning in place to keep people alert to it,” Raymond said. “A jam could happen. We don’t know. You can’t predict this thing at all.”
Raymond saw how quickly ice jams can move and lead to flooding last week. He said he was in Dolgeville on Friday assessing the situation after Thursday’s flooding. He was standing on Van Buren Street with another emergency official.
“And he goes, ‘here it comes, let’s get out of here,’” Raymond said.
They each jumped in their trucks and drove away.
“And as I’m looking in my rearview mirror, the water went from starting to lap up onto the street to completely over the top of the street,” Raymond said. “Big, huge ice chunks going into people’s yards and toward their homes. It was just something to see. It happened so fast. Within a minute or two everything was flooded.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.