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Buffalo's spring break: widespread flooding unlikely

Only five times since 1989 has the temperature taken this long to reach 60 degrees.

Don't hold your breath, it's not going to happen soon.

And, that's a big-time blessing for residents around Buffalo and Western New York this year.

This week's sunshine and slow, gradual warmup into the 40s has sliced the bulky, two foot snow-pack over the region in half in just four days without any noticeable effect except for the re-emergence of driveways, mailboxes and even some grassy brown patches along the New York State Thruway.

"It's kind of the best way to do it," said Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

A drastic warmup with the usual spring rainfall could be messy.

Residents in low-lying areas of West Seneca, South Buffalo, Clarence and Amherst can attest to that after enduring seasonal bouts of quick-rising waters that often happen this time of year on area creeks and streams.

Western New York's waters are going to rise this weekend with more temperatures in the 40s and some rain, but forecasters project should the creeks and streams will likely stay within their banks.

"We're not looking at much," Hibbert said about the threat of flooding. "Things are still melting off slowly. The amount of rain we're expecting Saturday will lift northward across Pennsylvania and mainly affect central and eastern New York."

Still, the National Weather Service wasn't taking any chances. It posted a flood watch for all of Western New York about noon Friday to run through Sunday morning.

In the watch message, the weather service stated "snowmelt will continue through the weekend, increasing stream and river flow, which will then increase the potential for flooding from ice jams."

As of Thursday afternoon, there was still a 10-inch snowpack at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Snow depth at Buffalo Niagara International Airport
Sunday 20"
Monday 20"
Tuesday 18"
Wednesday 14"
Thursday 10"
Cazenovia Creek's water was already covering the large ice pad in the creek behind Southgate Plaza in West Seneca Thursday afternoon. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

Cazenovia Creek's water was already covering the large ice pad in the creek behind Southgate Plaza in West Seneca Thursday afternoon. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

Less than a mile downstream, much of Cazenovia Creek remained covered under ice and snow Thursday, except for a small channel of moving water along the north shore of the creek. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

Less than a mile downstream, much of Cazenovia Creek remained covered under ice and snow Thursday, except for a small channel of moving water along the north shore of the creek. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

"The creeks are melting that snowpack from underneath as well," Hibbert said.

Smaller ice chunks were breaking off into the flow, but the scene is nothing like what it could be with a dramatic warmup or heavy rain, he said.

"They're just fist-sized, not grand piano-sized ice chunks," Hibbert said.

The gradual melt-off will continue Friday under sunny skies. Temperatures will climb into the upper 40s, according to the forecast.

Rain is forecast to arrive in the late evening hours. Temperatures will remain above freezing Friday night and get into the mid 40s Saturday before receding just below freezing again overnight. Sunday's forecast high is only expected to be 38 degrees with a chance of snow.

Forecasters are optimistic that should help keep the creeks and streams in check. Here's a look at the projections from the weather service:

Cazenovia

Cazenovia Creek at Ebenezer was 5.4 feet Thursday, rising to 8.1 feet by midnight Sunday – about 2 feet short of flood stage – before dropping again. (National Weather Service)

 

Cayuga

Cayuga Creek at Lancaster was at 5.2 feet Thursday, rising to 7.4 feet by Sunday morning, about a half-foot shy of any flooding. (National Weather Service)

 

Buffalo

Buffalo Creek at Gardenville was at 3.8 feet Thursday but would only climb to about 4.1 feet by Sunday, well below its 7-foot flood stage. (National Weather Service)

 

Catt

Cattaraugus Creek at Gowanda was at 3 feet Thursday, rising to 6.1 feet by early Sunday, well short of flood stage at 10 feet. (National Weather Service)

 

Ellicott Creek below Williamsville was at 2.6 feet Thursday night, rising to about 5 feet by 6 a.m. Sunday, 3 feet short of the flood stage. (National Weather Service)

Ellicott Creek was at 2.7 feet Thursday evening and was expected to progress to 5 feet by Sunday morning, about 3 feet short of flood stage. (National Weather Service)

 

Tonawanda

Tonawanda Creek at Rapids was just 2.6 feet as of Thursday evening but was forecast to hit 5 feet by Sunday morning. That's still 7 feet below flood stage. (National Weather Service)

 

Allegheny

Allegany River at Olean was at 1.6 feet Thursday and would rise to 7.2 feet by Monday, short of its 10 foot flood stage. (National Weather Service)

 

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