Flash flood brings back memories

GOWANDA – Disaster Coordinator Nick Crassi said it best, “I thank God it was not as bad as it was in 2009.” Many residents relived memories Tuesday of August 2009 when Gowanda was hit by an infamous flood.

Heavy rainfall overnight Monday into Tuesday morning caused flash flooding throughout the village.

Several roads were closed and the village was placed under a state of emergency.

While the damage is not as severe as it was in 2009, it is still a daunting reminder.

Thatcher Brook, which runs into Cattaraugus Creek, crested its banks early Tuesday.

According to Crassi, the village utilized the CodeRED system to warn residents of potential flooding. CodeRED, an emergency alert system, sent out another notification around 8:45 a.m., when the flood began.

“If we wouldn’t have had (CodeRED), we wouldn’t have been able to notify people. It’s a blessing,” Crassi said.

About 30 homes were damaged, but 200 families were in jeopardy throughout the day. There were no reported major injuries. According to Rich Cooper, media information officer for Gowanda Police, two residents were evacuated from Aldrich Street and a woman was rescued from a stalled vehicle, also on Aldrich Street. A toppled tree caused significant damage on Main Street near Prospect Street.

Nancy Hancock was between her house and her car when a tree fell over. She escaped with only minor injuries and considered herself “very lucky.” Hancock, who also experienced the 2009 flood at her residence, said this one was not as bad. In addition to the totaled car, Hancock’s barn had water damage and the rear of the residence was damaged by the tree.

Several side streets off West Main Street were covered in water, leaving an aftermath of thick mud. Gowanda Central School District’s Hillis Field was no exception. According to Superintendent Charles Rinaldi, there was about a foot of water that covered the majority of the field and track.

“The good news is that the turf field is not as damaged as it was in 2009. The bad news is that the artificial track is again covered with a fine layer of mud that seeps down through the surface and base. Cleanup will be extensive and lengthy,” Rinaldi said.

All sporting events scheduled for Hillis Field have been canceled until further notice; the school is working to determine where the remainder of the lacrosse and track seasons will take place. It is still too early to decide if graduation will be able to be held on the field. The school district did not receive any other damage.

Also damaged in the flood was the village reservoir on Point Peter Road. The reservoir overflowed causing sludge, silt and mud to accumulate. Due to the overflow, the pumps had to be turned off but there is no water contamination. If the pumps were to not work, the village has a water reserve of 1.5 million gallons, but residents are asked to conserve water as a precaution. Late Tuesday evening, Crassi said the pumps are up and running again.

Village resident Thomas Laing noted this flood was his fourth, seeing floods in 1986, 1998 and 2009. He said the events of Tuesday were “no comparison” to 2009. Bill Peglowski, who is a neighbor to Ahncock, said the flood was “totally unexpected.” Peglowski was at work during the day but said he was not worried about his property flooding. He said his property was not damaged in the last flood.

“It’s spotty flooding. Generally it’s not as bad,” said Peglowski. “It’s not like something that does not ever happen (in Gowanda).”

Crews from Gowanda, Collins, Perrysburg, Collins Fire Department, Perrysburg Fire Department, Erie County Emergency Management Services, Cattaraugus County Emergency Management Services, Gowanda Police, New York State Police, Erie and Cattaraugus County sheriff departments, and the Salvation Army responded. Local businesses Gernatt Gravel and Designer Pools were helping with cleanup and water removal. Crassi commended the various local DPW crews for standing by at area bridges as a precaution to clear any debris coming down Thatcher Brook.

“When water was coming down Main Street, we had people there to make sure people weren’t coming into a dangerous situation,” said Mayor Heather McKeever. “A lot of folks came out to assist us. It’s definitely not as bad as 2009.”

The village will hold a debris pickup today around 1 p.m., with dumpsters onsite for those areas hit the hardest including St. John’s, Jamestown, West Main, North Chapel, South Chapel and Walnut streets. All major routes coming into Gowanda, including Route 62, Route 39 and Broadway Street have since re-opened. All side streets are now open but limited to travel.

Crassi said the state of emergency will last until all the roads are cleaned up. According to the National Weather Service in Buffalo, widespread showers are expected throughout the week. Heavy rains are anticipated again on Thursday and Friday.

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