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St. Regis River flooding causes bridge, power concerns in Brasher-Winthrop area


BRASHER FALLS - Flooding resulted in the closure of several roads Tuesday morning. The St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Office said areas experiencing localized flooding are Winthrop and Brasher along the west branch of the St. Regis River.

Among the closures is a portion of County Route 53, just outside the hamlet of Brasher Falls. The flooding is an area near a power substation that is frequently under water in the spring when the St. Regis River overflows its banks.

Two homes that were affected by the flooding were evacuated this morning, according to Brasher Highway Superintendent Larry P. Hewlett.

“There’s three feet of water or more over portions of the road,” county Deputy Fire Coordinator Frank Burns said. “I’ve never seen it that high there before. Luckily for us, the ice went out two days ago. You can plan all you want, but you can’t stop Mother Nature.”

National Grid crews were assessing the status of their substation off County Route 53 in the center of the flooded area late this morning.

“We are currently monitoring the situation and are aware of the flooding in the area. At this point we are not concerned and do not see an inevitable threat,” National Grid spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis said. “People in regional control, they have shared with me that that area is notorious for flooding in the past. We will continue to monitor it.”

Ms. Limmiatis added that the substation supports 1,300 customers and officials are well-prepared in case conditions worsen.

“If there is flooding, we would anticipate the flooding and would know well in advance of the threat. We would de-energize the substation and those customers would be off-loaded to a different feeder. So they would still have power, but it would not be from that substation,” she said.

Mr. Burns said he was also aware of reports of flooding on North Road and in the Hogansburg area, also due to the high water on the St. Regis River.

A portion of Barnage Road in the town of Lawrence as well as the Days Mills Bridge on County Route 49 in the town of Hopkinton are also closed.

Firefighters from the Brasher-Winthrop and West Stockholm fire departments were laying sandbags in Ian Hayes’s 225 Route 420 driveway in Winthrop in an effort to keep the river from entering his garage. He moved into the home this past winter, neighbors said.

State Department of Transportation crews have also been checking on the condition of the Route 420 bridge in the area of the flooding. DOT officials said they had closed Route 420 in Winthrop between Route 11C and White Road due to the localized flooding. The route will remain closed until further notice.

The South Edwards dam in the town of Fine has activated its emergency action plan because of high water levels. Brookfield Power has operators on site and is monitoring the dam status.

There was some concern that a breach in the St. Regis dam in Waverly was causing some of the flooding problems. But owner Everett Smith said the dam had not been breached. The dam was originally constructed in 1947 and rebuilt in 1993.

“At the moment, I would say the dam is still there. I think it may be damaged on the downstream side a little in the middle. We won’t know until this flood subsides enough that we can get out there and look at it. It looks like it’s going to be days,” Mr. Smith said.

He said that, as of early Tuesday afternoon, the water level in the pond was at the normal level.

“We also have the flood control gates here. Those are not completely open,” Mr. Smith said.

He said, in situations like this week’s weather with a mix of precipitation and thawing snow, flashboards on the dam are designed to prevent flooding. They are used to raise the water surface of a dam.

“The flashboards on the dam are usually designed to break at that point to help prevent flooding. The flashboards have gone. Because the winter was so cold, the ice up here was very thick. When the big thick chunks started to come down, they started banging the flashboards on the dam. It’s a good thing they did. That’s what they they’re supposed to do,” he said.

St. Lawrence County Emergency Services officials said the current weather forecast for the region calls for 1 to 1 1/2 inches of rain over the next 24 hours, which will increase river levels with added potential for localized flooding.

Flooding in Brasher
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