(WATCH) Torrent raging: Genesee River at highest level in decades | Featured Story
LETCWORTH STATE PARK – Severe weather conditions can provide extreme views.
As rain and snowmelt continue to swell area streams, the Genesee River was a torrent of whitewater Thursday morning at Letchworth State Park.
The usual “whoosh” of the mid-park falls had become a loud roar, with a column of mist rising high into the sky beyond.
The environment? Wet and icy for the few people making their way to the falls through the cold spray.
The most comparable conditions occurred in 1979, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Buffalo’s Sandy Dagostino, who got out in the car with her friend Nancy to take pictures. ” Especially in winter. To come here and see it, it is truly magnificent.
The two first settled near Glen Iris, before treading cautiously on the slippery path to the falls – almost like walking through a cloud.
Temperatures remained freezing at 20 degrees around 10:45 a.m. Minor flood warnings remained in place Thursday for Oatka and Black Creeks.
The last time water levels were this high in the Genesee River was in June 1972. Hurricane Agnes swept through the state, and the Mount Morris Dam saved the watershed from ruin. The dam came within a few feet of the overflow, meaning there was about 200 feet of deep lake water collected behind the dam.
Steve Winslow, director of the Mount Morris Dam, said the roughly 200-foot lake is equivalent to 302,000 acres of water, or about 98 billion gallons of water.
In response to the current period of rain and snowmelt, the dam closed completely last Friday in anticipation of the influx of water. River levels were sitting around 25 to 30 feet deep on Friday. River levels are currently held at 113 feet deep at the dam.
“It’s like having two Conesus lakes stacked on top of each other,” Winslow said.
In 1944, under the Flood Control Act, the Mount Morris Dam was commissioned. It was built from 1948 to 1954 at the northern end of Letchworth Gorge.
Winslow explained that the location of the dam was intentional, so that the gorge itself could serve as the reservoir’s catchment area to collect water.
In the early 1990s and around 2011 and 2017, there were prolonged periods of high water where the river also reached about 180 feet at the dam.
“We had a pretty heavy snow pack and then spring rains piled on top and the river got deep quickly,” Winslow said, of the current high water. “We ended up closing the dam completely last Friday and that has allowed the river to flow more efficiently – the river level is still quite high in areas like Avon and towards the city, but it hasn’t been flooded.”
The emptying of the dam depends on weather conditions according to Winslow. It could only take a few weeks if the dry weather persists or everything could change quite quickly and stay at high levels.
The Genesee River has had a great influence on various aspects of the life that exists in its watershed for hundreds of years.
In the 1860s, as the city of Rochester grew, there was concern about the damage the flooding river might cause.
These concerns led to the construction of the Mount Morris Dam, which the US Army Corps of Engineers says has averted more than $3 billion in flood damage since its construction.
Although the Mount Morris Dam has been able to hold back billions of gallons of water from flooded areas downstream over the past few days, a few areas have reached minor flood levels. These areas were primarily along tributaries that flow into the Genesee River.
Oatka Creek and Canaseraga Creek, where they both join the river, experienced minor flood levels, along farmland and drainage areas. There was also minor flooding in Avon along the Genesee River.
“The dam is arguably even more important now than it was when it was originally built, and I say that because there is a lot more infrastructure in the downstream areas than there is. would have had in the ’40s and ’50s – that’s even more relevant.” says Winslow.
The choppy weather is expected to continue in the near term.
Winter weather advisories will be in place today for much of the GLOW region.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until 4 p.m. today for Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming and Erie counties, according to the NWS.
Snow is expected with sleet mixing in at times. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 7 inches are expected.
Travel could be very difficult, NWS officials said.
Periods of snow, sleet or freezing rain will result in slippery roads and limited visibility. They advise people to slow down and exercise caution while driving.
A separate winter weather advisory will be in effect until 7 p.m. tonight for Orleans, Monroe and Niagara counties.
Snow is expected, with total snow accumulations of 4 to 7 inches forecast. Winds can reach gusts of up to 35 mph, according to the NWS.
Includes reporting by regional editor Ben Beagle.