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Flooding inundates Amherst, Lockport

Record-setting rains flooded basements and washed out roads Friday afternoon in Lockport, causing Mayor Michael W. Tucker and Niagara County officials to declare a driving ban and to dispatch all the volunteer fire departments in the county.

The downpour also caused flooding near the Boulevard Mall in Amherst, where cars were gridlocked on Niagara Falls Boulevard as motorists struggled to drive through water more than 18 inches deep, and in the Chautauqua County Village of Brocton, where 45 residents were temporarily evacuated and the American Red Cross closed a shelter at Brocton Central School.

“I certainly don’t recall having this much rain,” Tucker said of the flooding in Lockport, comparing the storm’s impact to the October snowstorm of 2006.

Just before 7 p.m. Friday, Tucker said a local wastewater treatment plant that handles an average of 7 million gallons of water per day had already treated 92 million gallons, a record. Some basements, he said, had water up to the rafters. Volunteer fire companies and city crews were helping residents pump their basements out.

Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said it took 45 minutes for him to get from his house to the police station in the center of the city, which is only three miles from end to end. He said every intersection he went through was flooded, and he saw three cars stuck at East High Street and Davison Road.

The surrounding Town of Lockport was flooded, as well. Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said it was as bad as he’s ever seen. “It’s just terrible,” he said.

Local officials said there were reports of manholes bursting off of sewers because of overflowing water. Sue Crawford was driving with her daughter Mary Hill along the Erie Canal on Market Street in Lockport when they saw what they described as a “geyser,” with water spraying 15 feet into the air.

“It was like Niagara Falls was shooting up from the ground,” Hill said.

Hill and others weren’t expecting the storm to be so bad, despite officials’ warnings. At one point, the water picked up Hill’s car as she was driving, and she thought she was headed into the Erie Canal. She said she narrowly escaped back onto the road.

“They told us to watch for floods,” she said. “We were like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever.’ ”

Tucker said it was fortunate that the opening event of Lockport’s Labatt Canal Concert Series, which was to have appropriately featured the band Puddle of Mudd, was canceled because of the lead singer’s illness. It would have been canceled anyway by the flooding, Tucker said.

The eastern part of Lockport was hit harder than the western portion.

Police Capt. Anthony Palumbo said fewer calls about flooding came from western locations. But all residential areas were partially flooded at one point or another.

Flooding began downtown around midafternoon, and though Tucker issued the driving ban shortly after 3 p.m., drivers still tried to get home, maneuvering around roadblocks set up by local officials.

Tucker said he was thankful that nobody was killed or injured, though the cost of storm repairs will certainly affect Lockport residents’ wallets. “It was a tough day for a lot of people,” he said.

The rainfall abated early Friday evening, and much of the surface flooding drained away by nightfall.

News Niagara Reporter Tom Prohaska contributed to this report. email: