Catt. County declares state of emergency

With local officials still cleaning up after the recent flash flood that hit the Gowanda area hard, the last thing anyone wants is another flood.

A state of emergency for Cattaraugus County will be in effect until Saturday. According to Jim Mitchell, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Buffalo office, morning showers should gradually dissipate today into a stretch of drier conditions.

“As the cold front moves through, it will get dry, and temperatures will be a lot cooler than what they have been,” said Mitchell, forecasting temperatures in the 50s and 60s throughout the weekend. “Thursday night (was) the worst of it.”

Recently retired firefighter Kathy Camp is keeping her spirits up.

“We are preparing for the worst, but praying for the best,” she said.

“We have become pros at dealing with floods. The biggest thing is sandbags; we have been filling sandbags since 8 a.m.,” she said Thursday.

The entire Gowanda community has come together to help keep more damage from hitting home.

“We have volunteers and prisoners from the correctional facility who have helped put sandbags together,” Camp said. “It is sad, but this has brought the community together.”

Preparing for the worst, the Gowanda Fire Department spent Thursday cleaning up the previous mess.

“We have had people picking up or delivering sandbags all day (Thursday). We have been cleaning up as many trees as we can on the roads. We told people to not put out any trash for a few days, and people have been on standby at the hall until they are released,” Camp said. “The Salvation Army has been here serving all the volunteers dinner and will help out again (today) if we need it.”

Gowanda Incident Commander Steve Raiport confirmed most of the debris has been removed from the village limits.

“We still have a lot of debris upstream and if we get heavy rains, that will be a major concern for us. Our focus is if we get another flash flood. If the rain continues like it has been we will be fine.”

Raiport added storm drains and creeks are open and should allow the water to flow and keep it from flooding again.

The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross distributed cleanup kits to victims, and according to Raiport, approximately 150 homes have been affected by the recent flood.

The cleanup kits will be available at the Gowanda Fire Hall, located at 230 Aldrich Street Ext., on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, at the Randolph Fire Hall, located at 40 Main St., on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This is the second time we have been through this in five years,” he said. “We don’t usually get this heavy torrential downpour over a short period of time.”

Residents are encouraged to monitor local weather stations for updated forecasts and continue to be prepared for prolonged periods of steady rain and possible strong wind. Travel during storms should be limited to necessities only. Remember if you must travel, drive safely and do not drive or walk through pooling or running water.

The Cattaraugus County Emergency Operations Center is open and actively monitoring the weather and emergency response needs. Cattaraugus County residents can call a non-emergency line at 938-2244 to report damages from the flooding or the storm, including damage from Monday night to Tuesday morning’s storm. All those with emergencies or requests for assistance should call 911.

Contact the Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services with questions by calling the non-emergency line at 938-2244.

As residents deal with the storm’s aftermath, they can – at least – take some comfort in the brighter forecast expected.

“There may be a few residual showers left around, but the overall trend is that (the stormy weather) will be clearing out,” Mitchell said. “We should start to see some sunny skies, mid-60s on Sunday, upper 60s by Monday.”

Comments on this article may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com. Post Journal reporter A.J. Rao contributed to this article.