Rain, ice hit region with a double whammy - The Buffalo News

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Rain, ice hit region with a double whammy

For many Western New Yorkers, the typical pre-holiday hustle and bustle was replaced with a different kind of stress on Sunday.

Rainfall and melting snow combined to clog sewers and flood basements, and an ice storm knocked out power for nearly 65,000 customers, some of whom may have to wait days until the lights come back on.

Some communities saw a decrease in the number of flooding complaints as the day wore on, but the worst may not be over, according to the National Weather Service.

“Our main concern right now is that Tonawanda Creek will be cresting in Amherst and Tonawanda late Monday afternoon and evening. That could bring flooding to the basements and even to the first floors of some homes,” said meteorologist Jon Hitchcock. “It looks like it is going to be the worst flooding we’ve seen along Tonawanda Creek in five or six years.”

Homes near Ellicott Creek in Tonawanda and Amherst also face the danger of some flooding today, Hitchcock said.

He said the northeast section of Amherst could be especially hard-hit.

In West Seneca near Seneca Street and Harlem Road and in northeast Amherst, heavy flooding caused some road closures.

Ray Peacock, who lives on Flohr Avenue near Harlem Road Park in West Seneca, was finishing up pumping less than two inches of water out of his basement and was getting ready to drain his back yard.

“I was up all night, running back and forth to the garage, getting hoses out,” Peacock said Sunday afternoon.

He didn’t suffer any damage to his home, but his neighbors closer to the park weren’t as lucky, as standing water crept up their driveways, toward their front doors.

In Niagara County, the American Red Cross opened a shelter in the Rapids Fire Hall on Plank Road in Lockport to help residents coping with flooding and power outages.

An overnight ice storm blanketed the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport on Sunday, taking down tree branches and limbs and numerous power lines with them, leaving thousands without electricity for portions of the day.

In Lockport, where an estimated one-third of the city was without power, a ban on all unnecessary driving was issued so that crews could begin clean-up efforts. At least 30 homes had severely flooded basements, according to reports.

Looking ahead to Wednesday, the outlook for a textbook White Christmas is shaky for most of Western New York.

“Our official definition of a White Christmas is one inch of snow on the ground at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day,” Hitchcock said late Sunday. “We might get just enough for that ... In many areas, it may not be enough to call it a White Christmas.”

Some scattered snow showers are predicted for today and Tuesday, mostly in the Southern Tier, along Lake Ontario and in traditional lake-effect snow areas.

Temperatures are expected to be in the lower 30s this morning, dropping into the 20s later in the day. Tuesday will be much colder with temperatures in the teens. Temperatures should rise back into the 20s, with a few scattered snow flurries, on Christmas Day.

But the falling temperatures are not expected to create icy driving conditions, according to meteorologist Bob Hamilton.

Flooded backyards may freeze, but roads and sidewalks will dry out, he said.

NYSEG reported that nearly 25,000 of its customers in Erie and Niagara counties were without power early Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, power had been restored to all but 9,000 customers in Niagara County and 270 in Erie County.

National Grid restored power to about 17,000 of its 39,000 customers who lost power in Western New York overnight, but some homes may not get power back until Tuesday, company officials said Sunday afternoon.

Customers in rural Eastern Niagara and Orleans counties will wait the longest, National Grid spokesman Steve Brady said.

“We have made some progress,” Brady said, adding that the company continues to get reports of new outages even as crews restore power to some areas.

“The worst of it is basically north of the Thruway,” Brady said.

News Reporter Dan Herbeck contributed to this report. email: jterreri@buffnews.com

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