As Friday's temperatures reached 60 degrees and ice jams began to form around the region, residents of Whitesboro once again found themselves bracing for flooding from Sauquoit Creek.
Sauquoit Street resident Bruce Weise said precautions were made to get their vehicles and other valuable belongings to a location out of the possible flood path.
"This is a whole new experience," said Weise, who has lived in a house on a slab foundation for three years. "My next house, I want to be high up on a hill."
Friday's ice jams and flooding throughout the region was only the first stage of a multilayered storm -- rain, freezing rain and snow -- that is expected to last until Saturday afternoon.
As the ice jams eventually cleared up Friday afternoon, freezing rain was expected to hit around 7 p.m. and eventually switch over to snow in the early morning hours Saturday. The Utica area is predicted to receive between 4 and 8 inches by late afternoon; the North Country up to 1 foot.
"This storm is really complicated," said Rachael Witter, chief meteorologist at WUTR. "The issue with the snow is that there’s so much moisture with it it’s going to be the wet, heavy snow."
Witter added that the freezing rain expected Friday night would be a result of rain falling through hot air into colder temperatures near the ground.
Meanwhile, preparations for the snow were being made at the Utica Department of Public Works Friday night. David Short, Utica Department of Public Works commissioner, said that drivers were recommended to get a good night’s rest.
"(We’re going to) go through our trucks, check the salt supply, make sure we’re up to par," he said.
Short was planning on getting crews out after Friday night's Comets' game to salt the roads.
Short and his department was preparing as if Utica were to receive 11 inches of snow. Utica issued a snow emergency for 10 p.m. Friday and it is in effect until further notice. A winter storm warning and a flood watch also have been issued for the region through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
"We take the weather into consideration," he said, "but you never know with Mother Nature."
To help those displaced by the Sauquoit Creek flood waters in Whitesboro, the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross set up an emergency reception center at the Whitesboro Fire Station on Oriskany Boulevard.
"The reception center is available (Friday) as a gathering place for local residents who have been temporarily evacuated due to flooding," according to a news release. "Red Cross staff and volunteers are providing support including snacks, water, blankets, and meals for those who gather at the reception center throughout the day. The Red Cross is working in close coordination with local officials to address further emergency needs if they arise. Additional volunteers and resources are on standby at this time."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday announced that officials from the State Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services have been dispatched to assist the village of Whitesboro. State officials were on scene and coordinating with local officials as they continue with response and mitigation efforts.
Cuomo recentlhy announced $2.5 million to increase the resiliency of the Sauquoit Creek through the construction of an innovative floodplain 'bench' that will store and slow floodwaters and protect downstream communities. In addition, the Cuomo announced new coordinated state actions to help Mohawk River Basin communities hard hit by recent floods that will include $250,000 in new funding.
In Ilion, an ice jam at the Otsego Street bridge on Route 51 Friday morning sent water and chunks of ice over the banks of Steele Creek and into nearby backyards and down village streets.
But according to Mayor Terry Leonard, the situation could have been much worse.
“We dodged a major bullet,” said Leonard around mid-afternoon Friday. “I was all prepared to file a state of emergency, but it appears we don’t need to do that. The ice has been cleared away and Steele Creek is flowing smoothly. There was no extensive damage throughout the village. We kind of lucked out.”
He said the state closed a portion of Otsego Street for about three hours, but it had been reopened.
Contributing: Jolene Clever, Donna Thomson