Niagara Gazette — Homeowners on Cayuga Island were breathing a little easier Wednesday as an ice jam on the upper Niagara River that prompted flooding concerns started showing signs of loosening up amid warmer temperatures.
Niagara Falls Department of Public Works Director David Kinney said early Wednesday afternoon that water levels near the island had dropped by about 2 feet and it appeared as though the ice jam had passed its strongest and most threatening point.
He said his crews were now focused on removing blocks of ice that had formed on the island as a result of flooding and kickback from the local drainage system.
“I’m confident, unless something else changes, that we will be able to clean all of this up between today and this evening,” Kinney said.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning around 9 a.m. Tuesday for areas along the upper Niagara River, including Cayuga Island and Grand Island. The warning, which alerted waterfront property owners to possible flooding due to the unusually large amounts of ice found on the river, lasted for 12 hours. It followed checks of gauges at the LaSalle Yacht Club that showed early Tuesday that water along the river had reached potentially hazardous levels in large part due to the ice jam.
On his Facebook page, Mayor Paul Dyster said Wednesday the power authority canceled the flood watch for the east channel of the upper Niagara River, including Cayuga Island. Dyster said the watch remains in effect for the Robert Moses Parkway under the Grand Island Bridge. The stretch of parkway was remained closed Wednesday morning. Dyster said water-level gauges registered two feet below zero damage line and were falling.
“We will monitor conditions on Cayuga Creek and the Little River during the coming thaw to check for ice-jam related issues,” Dyster, who is traveling in Albany for the governor’s state-of-the-state speech, wrote.
The power authority’s ice breaker vessels worked throughout the day Tuesday, flushing ice over the falls in an effort to prevent build-up at the water intakes. Dyster said ice breakers will remain on duty and power output had not been impacted.
DPW crews and city police officers were deployed to the island immediately following the issuance of the flood warning. Kinney also credited the Niagara Falls Water Board with doing its part to shutdown service to the island as needed to avoid additional flooding.
“I think we diverted what could have been a much bigger crisis,” Kinney said.
Kinney said crews were unable to pump overflow water off the island on Tuesday. As a result, he said, the decision was made to allow the water to freeze in place and return Wednesday to chop it up and carry it off in chunks. He said crews were moving excess ice blocks to Jayne Park.