Post-blizzard concerns over possible flooding took center stage Sunday, as mild temperatures reached 50 degrees and were expected to be several degrees warmer Monday.
The snow melt is expected to challenge pedestrians forced to navigate large, sloshy pools of water, and threatens to flood basements and overtake rivers and creeks in the aftermath of last week's blizzard. Even the lowest temperatures on Monday should be above freezing, increasing the potential for melting and runoff.
With those concerns in mind, a flood watch issued by the National Weather Service is in effect from 1 a.m. Monday through 1 a.m. Thursday around the rivers and creeks in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.
Work crews were out on Sunday to break up ice that could clog rivers and streams, removing snow and ice from streets and roadways, monitoring water levels in at-risk creeks, and in some cases assembling sandbags and equipment in the event they were needed.
Officials expressed confidence Sunday that preemptive efforts were paying dividends.
"There doesn't seem to be any areas with major flow backing up, and where we can get to the ice we're being preemptive with that, " said Daniel Neaverth, commissioner of Erie County's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
"The tone of the day is that all of the parties are communicating," he said, referring to the City of Buffalo, Amherst, West Seneca, Alden and other areas.
Earl Loder, Cheektowaga's emergency manager, liked what he saw on Sunday.
"The runoffs are going down the drain like we wanted them to do," Loder said. "We moved a lot of snow the past couple of days.
"We have sandbags standing by, but our creek in Cheektowaga doesn't look too bad," Loder said. "We are monitoring it on an hourly basis. Right now, everything looks pretty good."
The Amherst Highway Department kept a watchful eye on several creeks, particularly the two most prone to flooding, Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek.
Foremen put stakes in the creeks to see how much the water was rising.
In West Seneca, a contractor began Sunday by breaking up sheet ice nearly a foot thick near the Ogden Street Bridge, and later did the same thing around the bridges at Harlem Road and Union Road.
"It's been a good day, and we're cautiously optimistic that there won't be flooding," said West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan, who was joined in mid-afternoon by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
"Every level of government has responded and has been very helpful," Meegan said.
Sunday's sunny weather brought relief from last week's bone-chilling cold that saw snow, wind gusts and whiteout conditions. Monday is expected to be a "very warm day for early February, with temperatures going into the mid-50s across much of Western New York," meteorologist David Thomas said.
The unseasonably warm weather won't last long, with a cold front expected late Monday, Thomas said. Tuesday's temperatures should drop into the upper 20s by the afternoon.
A wintry mix of possibly freezing rain and light snow is expected Wednesday and Thursday, with a high of 35 on Wednesday and slightly warmer temperatures on Thursday, with Friday expected to be in the mid-4os, Thomas said.
As for the weekend, look for Saturday and Sunday to be back in the 20s, he said.