Evacuation plans are being prepared and the Red Cross is setting up shelters as rising temperatures begin to melt seven feet of snow that piled up in some parts of the Buffalo area, causing a risk of flooding.
Temperatures approached 50 degrees in Buffalo on Sunday and are expected to be near 60 today. The National Weather Service said street flooding should be expected in urban areas where storm drains are blocked by the heavy snow.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent his fifth day in Buffalo, and told reporters the Department of Environmental Conservation is monitoring creek levels. He says he believes flooding is worse to deal with than snow, calling it more dangerous and destructive than people think.
"Sounds relatively harmless, it's water," Cuomo said. "It comes up and it goes down. It's not water, it's a toxic brew, is what happens in a flood. It has sewage in it, it has all sorts of runoff in it and it does tremendous damage to anything that it hits."
The governor advised residents to prepare themselves for flooding by removing items from basements and helping clear drains. The state has also brought in backup generators for pumping stations and equipment and personnel for swift water rescue.
"If we get lucky, and I said a prayer this morning, we get lucky, then none of this will be deployed," Cuomo explained. "But I want to make sure we're prepared if we do need it."
The National Weather Service says as much as six inches of water is being held in the now-melting snowpack. Cuomo spent some time Sunday touring areas where heavy snow has collapsed roofs on buildings.
"If we have more rain and there is snow on the roof, we could have more building collapses, so we're also preparing for that," Cuomo said.
Officials say snow removal from roads is proceeding, with most major streets and the thruway now open. But the majority of Buffalo-area schools will remain closed Monday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will visit Buffalo alter today to tour damages caused by last week's storms and to call for federal assistance for the area. The junior senator has called for a quick response from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide aid to the hard hit region, where residents, along with businesses and farms have been impacted by the heavy snowfall and resulting damages.