By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — Thanks to a stationary front near the border of New York and Pennsylvania, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for all of Western New York. The watch remained in effect until this afternoon at 5 p.m.
Reached by phone at Buffalo’s National Weather Service office, meteorologist Jim Mitchell said the torrential rains which have drenched the area in the past few days happened because the storm front to the south “stalled out.” That stall led to the wide-ranging flood watch, which Mitchell believed to be the first of such magnitude in about two years.
Mitchell explained, “There are several waves of low pressure riding along the front, bringing shot of rain after shot of rain.” Those shots of rain were quite evident Wednesday afternoon and throughout the day Thursday. More rain was expected this morning.
“We keep getting those pockets of rain,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes they’re heavy, sometimes they’re not.”
Had the rain come earlier on the heels of a major snowstorm, ground saturation would have been a major concern. However, Mitchell said there was enough time between weather events that the only saturation concern is based on the current batch of storms.
The flood watch issued for the area came about because “conditions are favorable for a flood to happen,” Mitchell said. Thanks to historical information showing how much rain water it takes to flood area bodies of water and the monitoring of river gauges, Mitchell said “the potential is there” for possible flooding. Those places most at risk are low-lying areas and areas where drainage is an issue. Also, areas near small streams and creeks are also at risk. The cumulative effect of each pocket of rainfall is what could lead to the flooding of larger rivers, he explained.
The measured amount of rain as of late Thursday was roughly two inches. While that may not seem like much, Mitchell said it does not stay in one place. There is also runoff to consider, and the headwaters of several rivers to the south of this area also received significant rain. As the rain saturates the ground, that will also become an issue with another two to three inches of rain expected today.
“That will exacerbate the situation,” Mitchell said of today’s expected inclement weather, adding the ground can only handle so much rain at once.
Should there be any isolating flooding, Mitchell said drivers should use extreme caution.
“It only takes six inches of water to take out a car,” he said. “If you see water on the road, you need to be careful. It may not look deep, but you really don’t know. The road could be washed out underneath, and you don’t know how fast the undercurrent is.”
Mitchell said the forecast for the next few days calls for continued rain and cold temperatures remaining in the mid-to-high 30s. “We’re solidly entrenched in the cold air for now,” he said, “but it looks like it will start to break by the end of the weekend.”
That storm break should come as a warm front slowly enters the area, bringing temperatures into the 60s by Monday. Asked if that could mean that spring has finally arrived, Mitchell chuckled.
“It’s Western New York, so spring comes and goes,” he said.