Rainfall drenched communities along the Chautauqua County shoreline Tuesday, as a slow-moving thunderstorm caused flash flooding, closed the Thruway and led to a harrowing experience for one Springville woman.
A water rescue team pulled the 26-year-old woman from rain-swollen Slippery Rock Creek in Brocton on Tuesday morning after she apparently slipped and fell while shooting a video.
Kari Brown had been shooting a video of the fast-moving waters when she “must have slipped,” according to her cousin, Holly Webber of Brocton.
Brown “told us she probably had been in the water a half hour before anybody noticed her,” said Darryl Braley of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s water rescue team happened to be in the area because of the overnight flooding.
The current also swept rescuers off their feet but they were able to secure Brown, then hoist her up the approximately 20-foot embankment, said Dan Aldrich, a member of the water rescue team.
The woman was “pretty hypothermic” and suffered “bumps and bruises” but appeared otherwise to be OK, Braley said.
Several inches of rain fell early Tuesday along an area stretching from Ripley at the state line north and east to Dunkirk and Fredonia. Creeks were sent over their banks in Brocton and other areas, flooding basements and several roads. Even more rain fell later in the morning.
“We had a thunderstorm develop over Lake Erie just before midnight,” said meteorologist Jon Hitchcock of the National Weather Service. “It was very, very slow moving. That was the main issue.”
The Town of Portland was the “bullseye” for the storm, said David Thomas, a weather service meteorologist. Nearly 6 inches – 5.76 – fell in South Portland over a 24-hour period that ended just before 9 a.m. Tuesday. The maximum one-day total precipitation ever recorded at the Buffalo airport was 5 inches on June 22, 1987.
Portland Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz said he was worried about water quality, given the volume of groundwater getting into wells.
“My personal concern would be the individual people who have wells,” Schrantz said, noting they are widely used in Portland. “I’d be cautious about drinking that water at this point.”
There was sustained damage to the shoulders of numerous roadways in the town, as well as culverts, the supervisor said. “Normal flooding and washouts all over the place,” he said.
Chautauqua County Executive Vincent W. Horrigan subsequently declared a state of emergency for the villages of Brocton and Westfield, and towns of Portland and Westfield. Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace issued an advisory against unnecessary travel, noting many secondary roads were impassable or flooded and littered with debris.
A “boil water” order was issued for Westfield water customers on Route 5, west of Walker Road. A water main break caused a loss in pressure that increased the chance of untreated water and harmful microbes entering the system, officials said.
The first wave of torrential rains arrived at about midnight and quickly dropped four or more inches within a couple of hours. As creeks overflowed, roads and driveways were turned into small ponds or swimming pools, according to residents.
“It pretty much came down Highland Avenue, which is in the center of the village, and then it just kind of spread out,” Brocton Mayor David Hazelton said in a telephone interview.
Flooding closed a section of the eastbound Thruway for several hours. The stretch between Exits 60/Westfield-Mayville and 61/Ripley reopened at 8 a.m. Tuesday, but portions of state Routes 5 and 20, among others, remained closed.
A portion of County Route 380, running north out the Village of Brocton, sustained “significant damage,” Hazelton said. Floodwaters undermined the pavement at a railroad underpass.
Firefighters pumped out 39 basements in Brocton that were flooded by the storm. Meanwhile, several people were evacuated from their homes at the lower end of Route 380, the mayor said.
After initially being taken to the fire hall, the evacuees were transferred to a shelter opened by the American Red Cross in Brocton Central School. Shelters also were opened in Silver Creek and Westfield, the Red Cross reported.
By midafternoon Tuesday, once rain began to fall again, water levels began to rise on Main Street in the Village of Silver Creek, Mayor Nicodemo Piccolo said. Residents of Lincoln Street were asked Tuesday afternoon to evacuate due to Walnut Creek flooding. Water also was encroaching on the fire hall on Central Avenue.
Further inland, Tammy Denison had traveled from her home in Cassadaga to check on her mother’s home in Stockton. Denison found a foot or so of gravel outside, and four inches of mud inside the garage. “Her basement is flooded,” Denison said; all the mechanical systems were affected.
“We had a lot of localized flooding come off what we call ‘Stockton Hill’ ” and onto Route 380, said Stockton Fire Chief Michael Myers. “It just came down off the hill really fast and didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Stockton firefighters had to pump out just one basement locally. But they had spent hours earlier in the day helping out in Brocton.
The rain moved out Tuesday night, said Hitchcock, the meteorologist, and will be followed by cooler, dry air. Look for highs Wednesday in the lower 70s in metro Buffalo and upper 60s in the Southern Tier.
“It clears out early in the morning,” he said. “We’ll see some sunshine by afternoon.”
News Staff Reporters Christopher Jasper and Joseph Popiolkowski contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org