TOWN OF LOCKPORT — With snow left over from this month’s storms melting slowly, Tonawanda Creek began to overflow its banks Monday, encroaching into backyards and flowing over roadways in the hamlet of Rapids and into Royalton.

Barry Kobrin, chief of the Rapids Volunteer Fire Co., drove around the area on Monday , surveying the water levels and getting a sense of what is still to come.

The National Weather Service warned the creek would rise to about 16 feet — about 4 feet above flood level — between 11 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. today.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Tonawanda Creek hit 13.6 feet.

A flood warning was issued, calling for major flooding in Royalton, north Clarence, north Amherst and Newstead. Many roads were expected to be closed, including Millersport Highway and Tonawanda Creek Road.

The flooding is expected to be “the highest that it’s been in 30 years,” Kobrin said, though he added, “It may not be as bad as everyone’s making it out to be.”

Tonawanda Creek hits both its widest and lowest point near Rapids, so the waters crest there often.

Both Tonawanda Creek and nearby Mud Creek, which wind through Rapids, Royalton and the Town of Lockport near the county line, were well above their normal levels Monday.

In Royalton, Kelkenberg Road was closed, with at least 3 feet of water flowing over the pavement in some spots.

The road was blocked off with signs warning of high water, but Kobrin said some people will try and drive through anyway, assuming the water is not very deep.

Looks can be deceiving, he said.

“Even though you can see the yellow lines on the road, you can’t perceive depth unless you’re standing in it,” he said.

The currents that push the water over the road can sweep a car away, even if they’re not visible. Some drivers think they can make it through water if they go fast, but that only makes it worse, he said.

“Now you’re creating your own current, and if water gets up in your engine, it’ll flood your engine, and you can be stranded,” Kobrin said. “You honestly don’t know where you’re at in that water. If something should happen, we have to rescue you, and it’s a dangerous situation to have to rescue people out of water.”

If the temperature drops quickly, the water could freeze on the road, causing further hazards for drivers.

The Rapids Volunteer Fire Co. is ready with sandbags, generators and other tools for the expected flood.

This time, the flooding may be helped along by tree limbs, blown off by Sunday’s windstorm, creating natural dams in the water flow. A broken dam can cause water to swirl and move quickly, so drivers should be aware, Kobrin said.

As emergency crews were preparing for Monday night’s flooding, crews from NYSEG were working to restore power to hundreds of homes.

On Monday afternoon, NYSEG reported scattered outages on streets throughout Lockport, both the city and the town.

Contact reporter April Amadon at 439-9222, ext. 6251.

Trending Video

Recommended for you