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OFFICIALS SAY WEEKEND FLOODING COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

Saturday's flooding in the Southtowns arrived in a flash.

The cleanup is going to take a little longer.

While sewer workers for Blasdell, Orchard Park and Erie County labored to clean up the mess Monday, some officials breathed a sigh of relief that the flooding wasn't worse.

"To the people who were affected it was important, but overall the town is very fortunate," said West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark, whose town has been plagued in the past by flooding in Cazenovia, Seneca, Buffalo and Smokes creeks.

"The biggest bullet we dodged was Cazenovia Creek," said Clark. "It was at the top of its banks. It was high, but it was flowing."

Clark said he was prepared to close Langner Road as water reached road level before it receded, and Buffalo Creek was threatening the Clinton Street-Borden Road area. But widespread flooding never came.

Blasdell wasn't as lucky, as it was hammered by the nearly 5 inches of rain estimated to have fallen Saturday morning into the afternoon. The water came so fast that the pump room in the village's sewage-treatment plant was submerged.

"There was 10 (feet) of water in the basement, all the way up to ceiling," said Blasdell Mayor Ernest Jewett. "It took hours to pump out so we could assess damage."

The cleanup was still going on Monday.

"Our worker was down working the pumps," said Blasdell Village Administrator Janet Plarr. "He started to notice the sump pump could no longer handle the ground water, and he started to hook up another when the water started coming in from the ground up.

"He was working in a room with 440 (volt) electrical lines. And when he saw smoke, he did the right thing: He had to get out of the building and call the Fire Department."

Meanwhile, two of the three sewer lines coming into the plant were redirected to the nearby Southtowns Sewage Treatment Plant. The third poured sludge out of the plant onto Jeffrey Boulevard,
eventually winding up in Rush Creek, which empties into Lake Erie near Woodlawn Beach.

Jewett said the mess had already been mostly washed away.

In Orchard Park, several roads were closed, but Highway Superintendent Ron Geitter said the water left almost as quickly as it came. But that was only after causing extensive basement flooding and pushing Green Lake, the town-owned lake, over its rear banks and flooding two or three homes there.

"I've been here 24 years and never seen anything like that," said Geitter, who said none of the town's larger creeks broke over their banks, but almost all of their smaller tributaries did.

Geitter said Orchard Park workers had cleared most of the debris off roads and out of major drains by Monday but were still removing sticks and branches from other drains.

Most of the other flooding through the southern part of Erie County was also relatively short-lived, with basements getting soaked, water pooling on lawns, roads and parking lots, and sewer lines filled to capacity.

Charles Alessi, Erie County deputy commissioner of environment and planning, said that given the amount of rainfall, the sewer systems handled it as well as they could.

"A storm like that is an act of God. It really can't be prevented," he said. "It wasn't as bad as I would have expected for the amount of rain we got."

But that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of problems. At Sewer District No. 2 on Old Lake Shore Road in Angola, county workers pumped sewage into Big Sister Creek.

"We don't want to pump into the creek, but it's better to do that than to have it back up and go into people's basements," Alessi said.

Alessi said when storm sewers are overwhelmed, the excess water's next flow option is frequently down manholes into sanitary sewers, which are then swamped as well.

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