October 21, 2021

Flood damage runs deep

Cleanup, repairs in county expected to take weeks

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

A “road closed” sign and orange traffic barrels are arranged in front of fallen tree branches on Song Mountain Road in the town of Preble. Flooding last week caused landslides and uprooted several trees.

The worst of the storms have passed, but moving forward there will be a lot of cleanup and construction to get the area around the north end of Cortland County back to normal.

Most of the damage was in the north part of Cortland County, bringing flash floods to Preble, Scott and Tully in Onondaga County.

Tully Mayor Melissa Flint-Morgan lifted the state of emergency Friday after two days of rainfall and flooding.

“Our lakeside friends are struggling to keep their property above water, as the lakes absorb all the rain that has fallen these past few days,” Flint-Morgan wrote in a Facebook post Friday afternoon. “Praying that the levels drop these next few days.”

The town of Preble was hit the worst, said Cortland County Highway Superintendent Charles Sudbrink.

“Song Mountain Road will be closed until further notice because of a severe landslide that has uprooted many large trees and left the remaining hillside very unstable,” Sudbrink said.

Large “road closed” signs and orange traffic barrels line portions of Song Mountain Road where 12-footlong tree branches lay on the ground. On the sides of the road, chunks of asphalt are falling away, causing street signs to lean haphazardly.

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

A stream gushes along Song Mountain Road in the town of Preble days after the storms that led to severe flooding in the area.

The road was damaged by flash floods Tuesday night and Wednesday morning following up to 5 inches of rain, Cortland County officials reported.

The Tioughnioga River in Cortland crested Thursday evening at 9.7 feet, about 1.7 feet above flood stage, but has since lowered nearly 2 feet below flood stage, the National Weather Service reports.

“The county is working on a mitigation plan now, so the cost is unknown. It will be hundreds of thousands (of dollars) if it is repaired correctly,” Sudbrink said.

The highway department will be putting a pause on its current projects, turning its focus to the flood damage for the next few weeks.

“We have our fingers crossed that we don’t get hit by the tropical storm moving up the coast,” Sudbrink said.

Tropical Storm Henri is on its way toward eastern New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday for two dozen counties, including those in the Southern Tier region.

“New Yorkers are no strangers to the damage that is possible after dealing with a hurricane — we experienced it with Superstorm Sandy and Henri is set to be that level of storm,” Cuomo said.

The rain last weekend could be the most Central New York gets from the tropical storm, reports the National Weather Service at Binghamton.

“Our main concern for this week was actually Sunday, and Monday there could be remnants of Tropical Storm Henri — but for the most part the heaviest rainfall associated with that is going to be to our east,” said meteorologist Mike Hardiman.

Isolated thunderstorms could make their way into today, but most of the heavier rain will be near the Catskills and Poconos, he said.

“It’s going to clear out for Tuesday and Wednesday, and then we have a chance for more showers and thunderstorms coming at the end of the week, maybe as early as Wednesday night,” Hardiman said.

The National Weather Service expects Cortland County to see a half-inch to an inch of rain today, which could be cause for concern for already flooded areas.

“But it’s looking like any storms we get then should be fairly progressive — not slow movers — so hopefully that will prevent too many issues,” Hardiman said.