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News Release

Moderate Flood Summary (Re-release) 12/6/2010

November 5, 2010, OLEAN, NY -- City officials credit the Allegheny River’s levy system for protecting the city when water rose nearly 12 feet in less than 24 hours Tuesday and then climbed another three feet before it began to recede around midnight Thursday.

“Things are slowly receding,” said Mayor Linda Witte Friday afternoon, after the river had dropped from the highest measured level of 15.75 feet to 14.3 feet in a little more than 12 hours.

She said the city was “lucky” through the event that brought moderate flooding in low areas and unfortunately filled many basements with water Wednesday morning. The groundwater rise was caused by a torrential rain that dropped more than three inches on the area Tuesday night and saturated the shallow water table.

Mayor Witte thanked residents for their patience but cautioned that a flood warning remains in effect for Olean and Salamanca until 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon and conditions are still being monitored and assessed.

She said waters in the river are expected to continue receding thanks to dropping temperatures, but she issued a strong warning to motorists not to drive through standing water of unknown depth. She pointed to the presence of minor flooding and localized flooding where the dikes offer no protection.

“Once a car begins hydroplaning you lose control and you could be into deep water and strong currents before you know it,” she said. “We want our residents to stay safely out of the water.”

Mayor Witte said Tuesday night she began monitoring reports from the Cattaraugus County Emergency Services Department Director Chris Baker, and working with Fire Chief Robert Bell and Police Chief Terry Schnell to keep an eye on conditions around the city. She credited all departments with working together to weather the storm.

She said the wastewater treatment plant staff kept the city’s pumps working through the flood event, while engineering staff and water filtration plant workers reported water level gauge readings at intervals. The Streets Department moved dead leaves and storm debris from the drains. Workers from both water and streets departments helped repair a broken water main that was unrelated to the flood.

“From the get-go the DEC has been a real partner in aiding our efforts to stay on top of conditions,” said Mayor Witte.

When the levels continued to climb above the 10 foot flood stage Mayor Witte set up a limited command center in her conference room in the Municipal Building. Early Wednesday, a message came from the state Department of Environmental Conservation that the water could go as high as 18.7 feet, the third highest level on record.

The levels reached 15 feet and as they crested at 15.75 inches around midnight Thursday, the Mayor, along with Fire Chief Robert Bell and Police Chief Terry Schnell planned to call a State of Emergency Thursday if waters reached 16 feet. The waters began to recede about 12:45 a.m. and dropped below 15 feet later Friday morning.

At 11 a.m. Friday Chief Bell reported that West River Road should be reopened Saturday by 11 a.m., or once the Allegheny River gauge shows water level has receded to a depth of 10 feet. Also, two or three homes remained without utilities due to the water damage in the basement. In the meantime, he said Route 305 south of Portville to the state line was still closed, while the east and west lanes of Route 417 at the Portville underpass was also blocked. I-86 Exit Ramp 23 to Carrollton was closed.

“Hopefully through the weekend we want to see conditions improve to give people a chance to begin cleaning up. She also wants to encourage folks to check on their elderly neighbors, and to be sure they are warm and the power is on,” said Mayor Witte.

Residents who have damage to homes or businesses should document and photograph it for any potential claims or flood aid that may be available in the future. As this information becomes available the Mayor will release it in the coming.

Sincerely,

Mayor Linda L. Witte