State of emergency in six counties due to weeklong flooding

Apr 18, 2014

Most North Country rivers and streams appear to be cresting or starting to recede after days of rising water. 

A combination of rain and melting snow caused several rivers and creeks to flood in upstate New York, particularly in the North Country and Mohawk Valley. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency for six New York counties this week due to flooding -- including Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.

The Black River, which flows right through Watertown, was above flood stage beginning Monday and closed roads and bridges because of high water.

The river was expected to crest Thursday in Watertown at 14.2 feet, but things have changed and after reaching 13.8 feet by the afternoon, the river was already receding. Those levels are still the second highest the Black River has been in recorded history. A flood warning for the Black River is in effect until Saturday night.

Watertown Deputy Fire Chief Russell Randall says that even though the Black River is going down, the river can still be unpredictable.

"Sometimes there can be a surge in the water table in and of itself as the water comes down river, but by all accounts that I've had up to this point the water should be receding."

Bob Simpson, deputy fire coordinator for Jefferson County still urges people to use extreme caution around flood water.

"If there's water over a road, you shouldn't drive through it, because you don't know the condition of the road. The road could be washed out under the water, especially if the water is moving across the road."

He says looks can also be deceiving, especially when there are low levels of water on the road or the sidewalk.

"If a river comes out of its bank and it's flowing, you can't even walk in water that's swift water above your ankles. It will take you off your feet. So it's very important to stay out of any flooded water if at all possible."

Sandbags were sent to several areas of flooding, with a swift water rescue team ready to be deployed if needed in Oneida and Herkimer counties.

Black River in Watertown
Black River in Watertown
Credit Brian Caird

Many farms in the area have also taken a hit, as flooding has ruined equipment such as bunker silos and wells. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare the counties agricultural disasters, send relief and help pay for damages.