SCHOHARIE COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Schoharie County has gotten good at predicting storms and getting ahead of flooding over the last decade, even for a curveball like Tuesday’s sudden downpour.
“It wasn’t our worst storm, but it was a lot of rain very quickly. We talk in cubic feet per second. We were thinking maybe 10,000 cubic feet per second, that’s what was our initial prediction,” explains Office of Emergency Services Director Michael Hartzel. “As the day wore on, those totals just kept going up. At our peak, we hit about 23,000 ft.³ per second. To take that into comparison, Christmas Day we hit 38,000 ft.³ per second, so a little more than a half this time what we had that day. Back during [Hurricane] Irene, we were at in the 170-range.”
Hartzel says as of Wednesday, water levels have receded to about half where they were at the peak of the storm. His office has been working with state offices as well to open flooded roads like Route 30 and remove sediment.
Unexpected storms like Tuesday’s are exactly when the new Schoharie County operations center comes in handy. After past storms destroyed several local offices, Schoharie County changed locale for its emergency services in 2018 and spent close to $100,000 outfitting it with state-of-the-art monitoring and stream gauges.
“We’ve added more stream gauges so we are constantly looking at the streams. We get projections on what the level is going to be, current time with the level is, and we get alerts on our phones when the stream goes up,” Hartzel explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “What we really look at too is not just Schoharie County, we are looking at Greene County, because when the Catskills get rain, we get their water.”
On top of monitoring, he says they’re also trying new techniques like when to open up local dams.
“We’ve done a real good job working with New York State Power Authority to help offset that, putting voids in the dam and releasing water in preparation for a storm. This is something new we’ve tried to do in the last couple of storms. We leave the notch open. In the past they’ve closed the notch. In talks with them and the power authority, we think it’s better they leave the notch open so we start to put water downstream earlier,” he says.
Hartzel says overall damage is minor as fire crews are helping pump water out of a few basements, roads are clear, and communication is open with National Grid to make sure everyone gets power.