Fast moving waters across roadways caused numerous accidents and stranded vehicles as powerful thunderstorms passed over the Capital Region Tuesday evening.
City streets were transformed into raging rivers as Albany and surrounding suburbs were hit by thunderstorms that brought 2.5 inches of rain in less than an hour. Sewer systems were overwhelmed by torrents of rain. Trees were uprooted. Several roadways were closed as rescuers came to aid stranded motorists. Many vehicles and buildings suffered water damage. The rain overpowered sewer systems. National Weather Service flood warnings were out for many communities.
Weather watchers note that the storm was basically isolated over Colonie, Latham and Albany, battering the municipalities for about an hour around 6 p.m. Streets downtown were overwhelmed, with cars under water and basements filling.
Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan says the north side of town was hit by hail. "Our deck was covered with hail - the hail was coming down - the raindrops were so huge - and yet on the south side of town they just got a little rain."
To the west, there was very little rain: some folks living in Guilderland and Schenectady had no idea Colonie (and Albany) had been inundated until social media began filling with photos of the floods.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan declared a State of Emergency. National Grid's website showed several pockets of power outages across the storm track, but those were expected to be restored by noontime.
Myers Middle School off Whitehall Road in Albany was opened to storm victims. Time Warner Cable News was among homes and businesses that lost power, grinding operations at its Watervliet Avenue Extension studios to a halt.
Carl Mueller is a volunteer with the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. He drove up from the Ulster County area to supervise the shelter at Myers. He says when storms threaten, turn on your radio. "TV stations will broadcast the opening of a shelter, but we try to publicize that on the radio and thourgh the police department, so if you can at least listen to your radio using a battery-powered radio, you don't have to worry about power, or you can dial 9-1-1 and they can put you in touch with emergency services, if you're actually seeking a shelter."
Mueller says one lone resident stayed the night at Myers. Mayor Sheehan told Newschannel 13: "We thought that we were gonna have a number of people in a couple of locations that were gonna be without homes. We've been able to allow some people to go back into their homes."
Costs related to shelter operations at Myers were borne by the Red Cross. Food was donated by a local church. Given the number of people temporarily displaced or lacking power, onlookers wondered why more people hadn't shown up at Myers. The mayor's office did not return calls for comment.
Here’s Red Cross' Carl Mueller what steps people might take to prepare for the next storm or disaster: "People should have already gone through a preparedness program. There are a lot of organizations that offer these programs thru the Ameican Red Cross. It teaches you what you should do in the event of a disaster. What information you should have together, what kind of equipment you should have together, and you should have a plan for your family, so you can reach out to family and let people know that you're okay. It's like havinga fire drill plan with your kids. In the event of a fire, how do we all escape from the house, where do we meet. What materials are we gonna need? Let's form a kit together with the materials we think we're gonna need, keep it in a safe place."
Supervisor Mahan says Colonie is ready to help residents meet the challenge of any disaster. "We have participated with the state on what are called 'go-packs,' basically backparks packed with things that you need in an emergency. We have a prtnership with the Red Cross so if we need to set up shelters we can do that."
Mahan adds crews would be dispatched to clear roadways of debris, check for downed utility lines, look in on senior citizens and other vulnerable members of the community.
Back in Albany, Mayor Sheehan's office says forestry crews working overnight removed approximately 30 trees and limbs that were on the ground and across streets. At this time all roads are open and tree debris removal should be complete by the end of the day. City storm drainage systems are now operating, and power is being restored to sections that experienced outages.