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Severe flooding in Mohawk Valley

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Greg Erhardt takes a break from salvaging items after flooding on June 28, 2013, in Fort Plain, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) Greg Erhardt takes a break from salvaging items after flooding on June 28, 2013, in Fort Plain, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Mud fills the parking lot of a convenience store after flooding, June 28, 2013, in Fort Plain, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) Mud fills the parking lot of a convenience store after flooding, June 28, 2013, in Fort Plain, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) -- Severe flooding caused by the spring and early summer's persistent rains damaged houses, closed roads and forced people to flee their homes Friday in New York's Mohawk Valley.

Heavy rains Thursday and into early Friday caused the Mohawk River to overflow it banks where it traverses the southern end of Herkimer County, located 60 miles east of Syracuse. At Little Falls, the river reached more than 3 feet above flood stage late Friday morning before receding, according to the National Weather Service.

Many of the rivers and streams that spilled their banks were slowly receding Friday night. Scattered storms moving across New York state were not expected to raise water levels significantly. The heaviest rain was expected to fall in the Hudson Valley.

(Continued below)


Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a disaster declaration for Broome, Chenango, Clinton, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Tioga, Schoharie, St. Lawrence and Warren counties that have been hit by severe storms and flooding.

The governor activated the Office of Emergency Management to monitor the impacted areas and to assist counties with ongoing rescue and recovery efforts.

"The State is taking action to provide immediate assistance and support to counties in the Mohawk River Valley which are experiencing floods," Cuomo said in a statement. "I will be closely monitoring the situation and my administration will continue to coordinate with first responders in all of the affected flooded areas. I urge New Yorkers in these areas to monitor news reports and follow directions from emergency personnel on the ground."


Sections of the New York State Thruway, the state's main east-west highway, were surrounded by flooding Friday though police said the roadway remained open in both directions. The flooding also forced state officials to hold off on reopening a section of the Erie Canal that had been closed by previous high water. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a late-afternoon briefing that there was damage along a 100-mile stretch of the canal.

"We don't believe there's been any loss of life so far but it is a dangerous situation," said Cuomo, who declared a state of emergency in several upstate counties.

Greg Erhardt lives with his 86-year-old father near the river in Fort Plain and he said the flooding was the worst the pair had ever seen.

"His cellar filled right up," said the younger Erhardt, 64. "Upstairs is livable but we don't know yet about the electric. It's a mess ... It's unbelievable. Fort Plain really got it this time."

About 100 people were staying in an emergency shelter in Fort Plain, according to police.

The heavy rains also pushed streams over their banks in the Adirondacks and caused flooding as far south as Chenango County, north of Binghamton. In northern New York, there were reports of several road closures in Essex County as the East Branch of the AuSable River spilled over.

Flooded streets were also reported in the city of Oneida in nearby Madison County, while residents in Johnsburg in the eastern Adirondacks were being asked to stay off the roads until flooding subsided.

Fred Cleveland, 33, lives a "stone's throw" from the river in Fort Plain with his fiancee, their four children and his fiancee's mother.

"We lost everything in the apartment. I lost my van," he said. "When I walked out to the van, the mud was almost up to my knees."

Cleveland just moved back to the area two weeks ago. He said they got the kids and a "little bit of clothes" out of the apartment but that was all.

"When I woke up, l was already in water waist deep," he said

Fire officials said there was two to three feet of water on some streets in the village of Herkimer and that emergency crews have rescued at least three people from their flooded homes. There are several reports of flooded basements.

Residents were being told to "stay calm, stay dry, do not go in the basement," according to Deputy Fire Chief Jim Woodrick.

"Stay safe. We'll get to you if we need to," he said.

Motorists traveling on a stretch of the Thruway are being advised to reduce their speed and be prepared to stop because of flooding along the highway.

The Thruway Authority has issued an alert warning of flooding on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 between Exit 29A at Little Falls in Herkimer County and Exit 29 at Canajoharie in neighboring Montgomery County.

The Canal Corp. says the waterway from Lock E-8 in Scotia in Schenectady County to Lock E-15 in Fort Plain in Montgomery County remains closed Friday.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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