Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda was spared flooding along Sweeney Street and other parts of the city, after ice floes jammed water intakes Tuesday and caused the Niagara River and the Erie Canal to nearly reach their limits.
The New York Power Authority first issued a flash flood warning Tuesday, as the Niagara River began to breach sections of Grand Island and Niagara Falls, which led to the temporary closure of the Robert Moses Parkway.
City officials and emergency workers stood vigilant as the the waterways reached heights six inches below zero damage levels, with particular attention paid to Mayors Park and a section of boat houses in and around Tonawanda Island.
But on Wednesday as crews took stock after a storm that for days shut down much of Western New York, those levels began to recede.
North Tonawanda Fire Chief John Lapham said water levels along the Erie Canal were noticeable lower by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and by midday the danger of flooding had subsided by two feet.
Mayor Rob Ortt said overall the city fared well, with less overall precipitation than the Erie County portions of the Tonawandas, though on Tuesday he initiated a citywide driving ban that ended at 9 p.m.
“The waters have receded, they didn’t go any higher,” Ortt said. “I haven’t heard anything further as far as additional warnings. I believe the power authority have ice cutters taking shifts our there.”
The threat of more widespread flooding led Rep. Brian Higgins to issue a statement Wednesday calling on the United State Chair of International Joint Commission to investigation the ice build-up in an effort to “prevent potential tragedies in the future” on both sides of the border.
“I am reluctant to contemplate the dire scenario which would ensue if hydroelectric generation were disrupted by an ice jam,” Higgins wrote to the international body. “If this disruption happened concurrently with a 10-year blizzard like the one which visited our region yesterday, the result may be nothing short of a major humanitarian disaster.”