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Flooding in Gouverneur prompts senior housing evacuation; Ogdensburg fears for trail

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Floodwaters continued to rise Wednesday in St. Lawrence County, causing more road and bridge closures and resulting in building evacuations.

Forty senior housing apartments were evacuated at Cambray Court, 68 W. Main St., Gouverneur, due to flooding from the Oswegatchie River Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Some residents of the 100-unit complex are staying with relatives or at the Kinney Nursing Home on West Barney Street, while others are sleeping in the building’s common room.

“They’ve got about 30 cots set up in the common area,” village of Gouverneur Mayor Ronald P. McDougall said. “The fire department was there pumping the basement area, but it seemed like the water was coming in as fast as they were pumping it out.”

No damage has been reported at the apartments, and the water has infiltrated only a 4-foot crawl space beneath buildings 7C, 8B, 6A and 3A, according to Robert W. Wentzel, maintenance supervisor for United Helpers Management Co., which manages the property.

“The fire department did a great job with keeping the water down,” he said Wednesday morning. “It seems to be stable now.”

Mr. Wentzel said the crawl space under the apartments was taking on an inch of water per hour from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but Wednesday it slowed to 1.5 inches over more than four hours.

The village declared a state of emergency Tuesday night, as the Oswegatchie River threatened other properties, bridges and roads. St. Lawrence County and several other municipalities declared states of emergency earlier in the day.

Mr. McDougall said the state Department of Transportation was examining the Route 58 bridge in the village because the water level had reached the metal beneath it. The bridge may need to close. He said the low temperatures Tuesday night helped slow things down a little, but not nearly as much as he had hoped.

“It’s getting worse by the hour,” Mr. McDougall said. “We’re hoping it will crest and then start receding. We’re doing the best we can with what we have to make sure no one gets hurt.”

The Oswegatchie River also is causing problems for Ogdensburg.

City Department of Public Works Supervisor Gregg E. Harland said he has been checking the Maple City Trail daily and hopes the flooding won’t cause significant damage.

A section of the trail near the Algonquin Power Dam has been submerged since late last week. Mr. Harland said city officials have not yet been able to assess whether flood waters have caused any damage.

“You won’t be able to tell until the water goes down,” he said.

Mr. Harland said the trail was able to withstand minor flooding in past years.

“It always held up, and I’m hoping it will hold up again,” he said.

The trail’s lighting — which already was malfunctioning and scheduled for an update — needs to be inspected and dried out, he said.

Elsewhere, the St. Regis River overflowed its banks in Brasher and Winthrop over the past three days.

DOT closed Route 11C in Brasher Falls Tuesday morning due to flooding. Both bridges on Routes 420 and 11C also were closed Tuesday.

The National Weather Service reported the St. Regis River at Brasher Center rising to 12.25 feet Tuesday evening, the fourth-highest level on record.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Muccilli said that the last time the river reached that kind of height was on April 7, 1947. The highest on record was 15.3 feet on April 6, 1937.

The river gradually started receding and had dropped to 12.1 feet by Wednesday afternoon.

“There was a lot of sandbagging yesterday,” Brasher-Winthrop Fire Chief Patrick M. Kowalchuk said. “The water is dropping today and things are looking good.”

National Grid spokeswoman Virginia J. Limmiatis said some customers lost power for about 30 minutes Tuesday evening.

She said in order to avoid power outages, the utility had to elevate the fuses at the substation at 180 County Route 53, Brasher Falls, so the bypass circuit breakers wouldn’t be damaged by the flood.

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