Few effects linger in county from last week's deluge
Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 9:18 am

By CRAIG FREILICH

Despite a number of flooded basements and several temporary road closings, highway and agriculture officials are reporting few long-term effects from last week’s heavy rain and flooding.

Area fire departments responded to many homeowners’ pleas for help in getting water out of basements in Norwood, Potsdam and elsewhere in the county following the drenching. The rain amounted to as much as a reported seven inches in some local spots on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 22 and 23.

The most apparent local effect of the storm was the washing out of a section of County Route 47 in Stockholm, between Routes 11 and 11B.

Repairs “will cost probably not much more than $18,000 to $20,000,” not enough to completely bust the highway department’s budget, but such unanticipated work – always a possibility – is never welcome, said St. Lawrence County Superintendent of Highways William Dashnaw.

County Rt. 47 had to be closed for a time after part of the road washed away, and other roads in the Stockholm area were flooded. Stockholm Town Supervisor Lowell Kelsey said the washout on Rt. 47 was soon reopened with a temporary fix, and that no town roads were damaged.

Meanwhile, Stephen Canner, Field Crops Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, said late last week at some area farms “there are still some areas of standing water,” adding “but I haven’t seen or heard of anything very serious.”

Canner said the fields he saw reminded him more of hay fields in spring than late summer.

The North Country crop most vulnerable to a heavy downpour – oats -- had mostly been harvested already, he said. “The wind and hail we had July 21, I think, did some crop damage, especially to oats.”

What was apparent to many homeowners following the storm, however, was that they needed some help pumping rising water out of their basements.

Mike Lozipone, driver with the Potsdam Volunteer Fire Department, said Potsdam volunteers and others from Norwood, West Stockholm, West Potsdam and elsewhere helped pump basement water out.

After working on some houses in the Potsdam area, Lozipone said, “we sent a few people out to Norwood” – an area that seemed especially hard hit by gathering water – “some at 6 a.m., and more at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and they were finished by about 7 p.m.” on Monday. He also said there had been reports of trees and wires down in a couple of places.

Millions of Gallons

Back at County Route 47, “that area was the hardest hit with rain that day,” said Dashnaw. “Our understanding is that it was not just the rain that made the flooding, but that the rain helped blow out beaver dams in the area. That gave us millions of gallons of flow that overtopped roads.”

On Rt. 47, about 200 feet of shoulder were washed out, with rushing water cutting channels up to 16 feet deep, he said.

“Once the water receded, we trucked stone in and had the road open by 6 or 6:30 p.m.” that Monday evening, Dashnaw said.

He said barrels with lights were set up to keep drivers off the damaged shoulder. “We’ll repair the shoulder and replace the guide rail” and make repairs to “other minor shoulder washouts,” Dashnaw said.

As for farmers, nitrogen depletion in some corn fields might be attributable to the heavy rain, said Canner.

“It could be coincidental, but I’ve been seeing much more nitrogen deficiency in the last few days.”

He says a sign of that is pale green to yellowish leaves, as opposed to the usual dark green leaves seen on corn plants “and in the worst cases, the tips of the lower leaves turning yellow or brown.”

These fairly common nitrogen deficiency symptoms, Canner said, are “something I didn’t see a week before” the storm.

Aside from that, Canner believes the wet fields probably won’t present a big problem for farmers, “but if it sticks around and we get much more rain, it could get worse.”

Clark Putman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Canton, which handles some insurance for farmers, says he’s seen no claims come in as a result of the storm. “The water went up, and the water went down,” Putman said.

In fact, Putman says, it looks like a very good year for crops in general.

“People are concerned about what they’re going to do with all of it,” he said.