By Bill Wolcott
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Lockport was expecting to welcome the band Puddle of Mudd to the city on Friday. The band canceled, but in a cruel twist of irony, the city still got its puddles.
A torrential downpour that continued for hours flooded dozens of streets and hundreds of basements, damaged buildings and washed out roads across Lockport Friday afternoon, and a driving ban was issued as city police and fire personnel tried to keep up with a steady stream of 911 calls.
Drivers are advised not to drive on any flooded street, and a few in the area remain closed or under water.
Firefighters are helping to bail out flooded basements in the city of Lockport in what Mayor Michael Tucker called the worst flooding in recent memory.
About five inches of water fell in the matter of a few hours Friday. That forced the city’s water treatment plant to handle about 92 million gallons of water, about 13 times more than the 7-million gallon daily average.
Ten area volunteer fire companies were called in for mutual aid to help pump out flooded basements, a number that ballooned to over 30 by the evening.
Homeowners with flooded basements are advised to call the Lockport Police Department at 433-7700 for assistance. Homes will be serviced on a case by case basis and on an emergency basis, officials said.
“I’ve never seen that much water,” said Police Chief Larry Eggert.
Heavy rain began to fall during the noon hour and it continued throughout the afternoon.
By 4 p.m., Lockport Police reported 15 to 20 streets were flooded, and 45 basements were under water. Calls kept coming in to headquarters and the police 911 dispatchers never seemed to take a breath.
By the end of the day, several hundred homes suffered water damage. Homes that never flooded, including the mayor’s, had water in the basement. Six streets were closed.
The driving ban was still in force Friday night, but city officials are more concerned with helping flooded families than giving out tickets, the mayor said during a 7 p.m. news briefing at city hall. The reason for the ban was that several intersections were filled with water, causing cars to back up or become stuck in the intersections.
Parts of Davison Road was flooded with 2-3 feet of water, and people were abandoning their cars after they became stuck as drivers tried to drive through the high water.
Market Street was closed from near downtown to Widewaters Marina. There were reports that rushing water from Vine Street may have washed out part of the road.
”Right now we’re reacting to the storm, trying to help people out of danger, give them some peace of mind,” Tucker said. “We have no report of injuries ... We have had a lot of street damage.”
The Erie Canal stretched across Market Street at Widewaters Marina as water overtook the towpath and gushed down the escarpment. A group of kayakers paddled on the county golf course on Davison Road.
The Lincoln Avenue culvert bridge over Donner Creek at Allie Brandt Lanes was washed out.
In the Town of Lockport, Highway Supervisor Dave Miller estimated that over four inches of rain fell. Crews from the water, sewer and highway departments worked desperately to keep culvert drains clean so that the water could flow as freely as possible.
The Lockport Library and YMCA — both of which planned to close early in deference to the Labatt Canal Concert Series — suffered damage at the lower levels on their East Avenues buildings. The locker room and the pool area were underwater at the YMCA. Damage was being assessed at the library.
The Market Street Art Center closed, but some people came in to get out of the rain. Water seeped in under the center’s back door and there was some flooding. A sump pump was set up and sandbags were placed in the rear of the building. The block and tackle room was flooded.
Paraphenalia was lifted off the floor in some of the rear studios. There is no estimate of damage.
”We’re just trying to get water out of here,” said Sandy Travis, an administrative assistant. “It came up through the manhole. Water was up to driveway. It was running like a river.”