Henri arrives: Capital region officials watch and prepare as the rain falls

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Emergency crews continued to prepare for flash floods and blackouts as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Henri reached Schenectady mid-afternoon on Sunday.

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However, fears of massive flooding in the capital and Mohawk Valley areas faded late Sunday afternoon, as the National Hurricane Center demoted Henry to tropical storm before he arrived. on earth.

“I mean, we’re definitely prepared,” said Colleen M. Flynn, emergency management coordinator for Schoharie County. “But we anticipate nothing more than potential flash floods.”

Outside Albany International Airport, the National Weather Service reported conditions of light rain and incoming fog on Sunday evening, with showers and a possible thunderstorm that could produce heavy precipitation, with amounts ranging between a tenth and a quarter of an inch. Higher amounts are possible during thunderstorms.

Showers and possibly thunderstorm conditions were forecast for Monday, with further precipitation possible between one-half and three-quarters of an inch.

Before the storm arrived, Canal Corp. reduced water levels in the Mohawk River and Erie Canal to allow water to flow freely downstream.

“You can already see the difference,” said Shane Mahar, a spokesperson for Canal Corp., during a briefing at Lock 9 of the Erie Canal in Rotterdam Junction.

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The Canal Corp. preemptively raised its mobile dams along the Erie Canal and Mohawk River between Locks 8 and 15, from Rotterdam to Fort Plain.

President Joe Biden approved the state’s emergency declaration on Sunday, making New York eligible for federal disaster assistance in response to the tropical storm.

Flood monitoring remained in effect until Monday evening for the Capital District, Eastern Mohawk Valley, Schoharie Valley, Saratoga area, Lake George, Hudson Valley , eastern New York Catskills, Taconics, Helderbergs and southern Vermont and western Massachusetts. .

Gordon’s Lakeside Marine staff on Lake Sacandaga in Mayfield said they only expected rain and had no further plans to secure the boats.

The storm had weakened as it entered Rhode Island en route to New York on Sunday noon.

Saratoga County Emergency Services Commissioner Carl Zeilman said the county was ready to respond.

“We are constantly monitoring the weather. The county has participated in conference calls with Canal Corp., with the National Weather Service and the various utilities that provide services to the county, and these will continue until the storm leaves the county, ”said Zeilman, adding concerns about motorists.

“You are concerned about the safety of your residents and your first responders, and one of the things we like to stress is, along with flash floods, which could potentially occur due to this storm, don’t try to driving on flooded roads, ”he said. “You put yourself in danger, then you endanger our first responders, who have to come out and provide you with extrication for this situation.

“Right now we’ve seen so much rain over the past few weeks here locally, the ground is pretty saturated,” Zeilman said. “So if we get the heavy rainfall that they’re forecasting, you might see your flash floods. You may see rivers and streams rise and cause minor flooding along these areas as well, so we will continue to communicate with our partners in each municipality and respond, if necessary.

Schenectady County Director Rory Fluman said, “We are moving in the right direction,” with the downgrade to a tropical storm.

“All of our emergency management officials are meeting now and are ready to go if they need to help the town of Schenectady or the village of Scotia, to offer any assistance in the event of a flood,” said Fluman. .

Mahar, the state spokesperson for Canal Corp., said the lifting of movable dams along the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River was a lesson learned from tropical storms Irene and Lee, which caused more $ 1 billion in damage to the state and approaching their 10- year anniversaries.

“The two original versions of the Erie Canal were in a ditch dug in the ground parallel to the Mohawk River,” Mahar said. “In the early 1900s, when the state made the decision to enlarge the canal for the third time and create the barge canal, tthey did it by installing and building these mobile dam structures.

The dams, he said, were built to be raised and lowered into the river during summer navigation during the canal season.

When the dams are lowered into the river, they artificially move up the Mohawk River, creating a navigation basin, between the locks. This allows larger vessels to move up and down between the lock structures.

Every winter, in November and December, the Canal Corp. lifts the dam’s movable valves to allow the river to flow freely, allowing ice or any water accumulation to float downstream.

The canal system suffered $ 84 million in damage from tropical storms 10 years ago because the the movable dams were not strong enough to be lifted at all times in flood or high flow conditions, Mahar said.

As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency invested $ 28 million in the canal system, to rebuild and strengthen the mobile dams with new steel uprights, an upper gate, chains, winches, upper and lower steel plates and LED lighting.

“The piece of machinery that moves like a mechanical winch or a mule has a big motor, and there are chains that are put on that winch, and that’s what raises and lowers the doors and upgrades it out. of water, ”Mahar mentioned.

“It’s all part of climate change and resilience and building a stronger channel system for the next generation of channel users not only of the channel, but also for communities,” he said. “It helps protect the communities that help protect Scotia, Rotterdam, Schenectady, Glenville and Amsterdam,” among others.

Out of fascination, Bill Hansen, a resident of nearby Riverwalk Condominiums, watched Operation Canal Corp. Sunday morning.

Hansen said he had minimal concerns about local flooding.

“There could be minor flooding, but nothing like it” 10 years ago, he said.

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