Ice jam flooding forces evacuations in Northern New York

Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 12:46 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2022 at 5:29 PM EST
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JAY, N.Y. (WCAX) - An ice jam on the AuSable River is wreaking havoc on the North Country, flooding out homes and leaving up to two dozen people stranded.

Two inches of rain fell overnight with temperatures in the 50s, highly unusual for February. All that water flowing into the frozen AuSable River forced the water to crest 15 feet at 5 a.m. Friday in the town of Au Sable Forks. That’s 8 feet above flood stage and it stayed that high for an hour.

The water is back down now but the damage remains.

People in the town of Jay are taking stock after the flash flooding forced that water to rise within minutes. Residents described the harrowing minutes they spent trying to evacuate.

“By the time we made it from the top floor to the bottom floor, the car was already engulfed in water all the way up to the driver’s side window,” said Jamie Pesce of Au Sable Forks.

Some citizens were rescued by bucket loaders as water filled basements and rose into the first floor of homes.

“The only thing we could think of was the flooding in the house was just grab the kids and run up the street. That’s what we did. We ran up, my mom’s boyfriend grabbed my niece and one of my kids and I grabbed my youngest daughter barefoot and we all ran up, no jackets or shoes on,” Pesce said.

Around the AuSable River in Jay, massive ice chunks backed up into people’s backyards, even taking vehicles with the surge of water.

Some need their basements pumped out, vehicles and furnaces checked. Others are not able to go home, up to two dozen could be displaced.

“We have to go to a motel, our floors are sinking in. We are now homeless,” Pesce said.

The ice broke up around 7 a.m. Friday and by 9:30 a.m., it had moved through parts of Jay and caused a jam right in Au Sable Forks where the worst of the damage was by afternoon.

“Once it hit the hamlet of Au Sable Forks, it did slow down and the water backed up behind it and very rapidly caught a lot of people by surprise this morning. We did have people down here at the community center going and waking up people along the river here,” Town of Jay Supervisor Matt Stanley said.

The town of Jay declared a state of emergency, allowing them to open their warming shelter at the community center which a few residents used throughout the day.

However, it will be a few days before they know the true extent of the damage.

“The best I can tell people to do as well is always be aware, just like on my phone this morning it gave flood alerts and if you know you live in those low-lying areas with where the flood is going to happen, monitor, be ready to move and evacuate. Until the fire service gets here, there is nothing else we can do and even then our services are limited,” said Gregory Timmons, the deputy fire coordinator for Clinton County Emergency Services.

The American Red Cross was on hand assisting Friday getting people the shelter they need and the warming shelter will be open Friday evening. That’s at 11 School Lane in Au Sable Forks.

The town of Jay is checking its sewer and water systems. Plus their town garage is now full of ice, so they are trying to figure out if their vehicles are OK.

Evacuations are underway in parts of the North Country where an ice jam has sent the AuSable...
Evacuations are underway in parts of the North Country where an ice jam has sent the AuSable River over its banks.(WCAX)

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