MORAVIA — Farmland covers rolling hills sloping down over two miles along Oak Hill Road toward the village of Moravia.
On a sunny afternoon Wednesday, the fields, framed by woodlands with foliage aflame with bright red, yellow and orange leaves of fall, offered a tranquil fall scene.
A day earlier was a very different picture, as a nor’easter ripped up the Eastern Seaboard and dumped 3 to 4 inches of rain on the village — and 2.35 inches on the city of Cortland.
Across the greater Cortland area, basements flooded; the Tioughnioga River topped its banks, and water pooled in low-lying fields and roads. Several trees toppled.
The rainfall in just six to eight hours sent stormwater cascading toward the village of Moravia, the third major flood this year. It flooded so many roads the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department issued a travel advisory until Wednesday morning and warned that it was running out of cones to block flooded roads.
“We never used to have this much flooding,” village Mayor Garry Mulvaney said Wednesday.
“We would have one a year. Now, every time it rains hard we get flooding.”
The flooding seems to have worsened, beginning with a large flood in 2017, he said.
“We are not getting significant 50-year storm events, just 3 inches on saturated ground and multiple events,” said Doug Kierst, executive director at Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District. “That is what happened yesterday. There is a significant amount of rain that fell this year, compared with other years.”
As streets flooded, the three full-time and one part-time employees of the village Street and Highway Department worked into the night to clear clogged storm drains and move the deluge of water off streets, Mulvaney said.
Several basements flooded, causing headaches for homeowners. Even the concession stand at the village park flooded, for the first time since being elevated two years earlier to avoid such a problem.
No structural damage was reported after the most recent flooding, the mayor said. But he believes climate change is contributing to the frequency and severity of flooding.
The big question is how to prevent it.
Kevin Conlon/city editor
The Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District and Moravia officials have been working to improve storm water drainage, such as this culvert along Oak Hill Road. But the village still saw its third major flood this year.
Work has been done several times to improve drainage on Oak Hill Road, which is a significant source of flooding in the village, the mayor said. The ditch was lined with asphalt, but that has begun to crumble.
A basin was installed to collect water and release it more slowly, Mulvaney said.
The latest flood control project, which began over the past two years, has promise, he said.
The Soil and Water Conservation District has begun a multiphase project to improve the flow of stormwater to reduce flooding.
Culverts were enlarged and the ditch along Oak Hill Road was widened. Gravel and sediment were dredged from a creek in the village to increase the volume of water that can pass through the village heading west toward the flats behind the fire station.
There are plans to create a pond on private property on Oak Hill to capture a large amount of stormwater and release it more slowly as it travels downhill to the village, said Kierst, who noted that planning began three years ago and included discussions with local officials, residents and a project engineer.
“We hope it will alleviate the volume of water coming down in that part of the village,” he said.
Soil tests are being conducted and construction will probably begin in the spring and be completed later in the year, Kierst said.