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Stark contrast after severe rains in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties


CANTON — Like night and day, two counties included in a disaster declaration have experienced differing results from the continued rainfall.

Continued rainy days have done more than painted a gray cloud over the region; it has resulted in a 15-county disaster declaration which includes St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo requested President Barack Obama to issue a major disaster declaration for New York state on Monday as a result of the severe storms and major flooding that occurred on June 27 and 28.

That request followed the governor’s June 28 declared state of emergency for Broome, Chenango, Clinton, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Tioga, Schoharie, St. Lawrence and Warren counties.

More than 13,000 people had been without power during the height of the storm, the governor stated in a release, and one person was reported to have been swept away by flood waters. Her body was subsequently discovered in the Mohawk River.

But with the sense of urgency that has been attributed to the heavy rains and flooding, St. Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Joseph M. Gilbert said the county came out unscathed.

“We suffered no flooding at all. I was actually surprised that we were included in that declaration,” Mr. Gilbert said. “I understand why we were — preemptive measures.”

“We will continue to monitor because it just won’t stop raining,” Mr. Gilbert added.

There were a few flooded basements which were pumped out by local fire companies, Mr. Gilbert said, and one clogged culvert that was cleared. Those incidents aside, the county came away clean.

“I’m actually in Herkimer now observing their disaster relief efforts since I wasn’t needed at home,” Mr. Gilbert said. “It’s always best to get some real-world disaster experience to take home just in case we ever need it.”

That need has been required in Franklin County, where high waters have become the core issue.

County Emergency Services Director Ricky L. Provost said 30 roads have been closed in the last two weeks as a result of heavy rainfall.

Currently, Upper, Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes are in an overflow stage and just below those lakes are Lake Flower and the village of Saranac, which is in jeopardy of being flooded.

“Those waters have to come down and we have to let that water out through the Lake Flower Dam,” Mr. Provost said. “We’re talking about flooding the streets and businesses (as far as) six miles away in the hamlet of Bloomingdale. It’s in Essex County.”

Mr. Provost said his department has been fighting overflow for almost eight weeks; the maximum water level reached this year was 20 inches over spillway. He said that amount of overflow put a lot of residents in danger.

“We were able to lower that to eight inches,” Mr. Provost said, which didn’t last long. “In the last 72 hours the water level has gone back up to 16 inches over spillway.”

The village of Saranac Lake was contacted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and told they have to release water out of Lower Saranac Lake because they have become inundated. The problem is that Lake Flower is also inundated and that release will result in an increase to the 16 inches over spillway.

“They are going to be adding more water into Lake Flower than we can get rid of,” Mr. Provost said. “We’re walking a fine line between not flooding them (Bloomingdale) out and not flooding out the streets and businesses of Lake Flower.”

On Tuesday a preliminary assessment from the State Emergency Management Office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was conducted. Mr. Provost said he expected the data from the assessment on Friday with a cost upwards of $2 million in damages.

The county 911 office initiated a reverse 911 call where they advised residents to take precautions that included taking their boats out of the water, moving their cars from the streets and in the village of Saranac, there has been talk of potentially using sandbags to prevent flooding.

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