Essex County on alert as Ausable River rises

Flood watches and warnings in effect Saturday evening (Image:  National Weather Service Burlington)

Flood watches and warnings in effect Saturday evening (Image: National Weather Service Burlington)

Emergency services officials met with elected leaders in Ausable Forks on Saturday as heavy rain swelled the Ausable River.

The office of Governor Andrew Cuomo also signaled that it stands ready, should serious flood conditions force a major response.

“We are most thankful for all Governor Cuomo’s help in the past and as we prepare for any future possible flooding,” said Essex County chairman Randy Douglas in an email.

Flood warnings and watches were in effect across most of northern New York and Vermont, with a special alert in effect on Saturday for the East Branch of the Ausable.

As of 7:15pm Saturday evening, the river level was just below flood stage, with rain and snow still in the forecast.

Earlier in the day, county chairman Douglas convened a meeting at the town of Jay community center “to plan a course of action should the Au Sable River continue to rise above flood levels.”

The following statement was issued by Essex County following the session:

Assemblyman Dan Stec was present, while Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Senator Betty Little and DPW Director Chris Garrow joined us via telephone.

Assemblyman Dan Stec said, “We are fortunate to have the Emergency Responders that we do, for they have the experience to respond during these natural disasters.”

Lynn Gilbert, Executive Director of the American Red Cross North Country Chapter said, “The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross has notified our disaster volunteers and we are prepared to mobilize at a moment’s notice. If necessary, we will provide sheltering, feeding or canteening to all members of the community as well as first responders.”

Cheryl Murphy, Red Cross Regional Response Manager said, “We are on alert and ready to open the shelter if needed.”

Shelley Thwaits of the Au Sable Forks Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary said, “We are ready and willing to work with the American Red Cross to get meals for residents if the need arises.”

Mike Cross, 1st Assistant Chief of the Au Sable Forks Fire Volunteer Fire Department said, “We will have rescue boats on standby and be ready to deploy if need be.”

Supervisor Bill Ferebee of Keene said, “It’s assuring that we have met and that emergency personnel are monitoring roads and currently there is no urge to evacuate. We will review National Weather Service information again at 9pm tonight.” 

“We’re hoping the rain will clear out and there will be no major damage. But, if there is extreme flooding and a need for work in the river, the Au Sable River Association will be on call to provide technical assistance to DPWs and contractors so they can protect the health of the river ecosystem at the same time as protecting people and property,” said Corrie Miller, Executive Director.

Essex and Clinton County Emergency Directors Don Jaquish and Eric Day have been following the National Weather Service reports and at 2:40pm the river was at 6.9’. It is anticipated that the water will crest at 9’ and start to recede after midnight tonight.

Eric Day and Don Jaquish said, “Anybody that lives along the river (Keene Valley to Keeseville) that is prone to flooding, please watch the water levels into the evening and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.”

“The Au Sable Forks Volunteer Ambulance will be on standby for they now operate 24 hours,” according to Chief Bill Minogue.

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