Small Streams Quickly Become Mighty Floodwaters In Randolph Area; Roadways Damaged

RANDOLPH – Mother Nature caught many Randolph area residents by surprise early Tuesday morning when heavy rains caused flash flooding throughout the town and surrounding areas.

People awakened to washed-out driveways and roadways, flooded basements and downed trees. Fire Chief Don McElwain reported that the Randolph Fire Department pumped out about 20 basements.

At 9:18 a.m. on Tuesday, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office issued a “No Unnecessary Travel” warning in western Cattaraugus County due to flooded waterways. Culverts were gorged and overflowing while roadways flooded resulting in the closure of a number of highways including Route 242 from Little Valley to Coldspring, Route 353 north of the village of Cattaraugus, and Route 62 to Dayton.

Floodwaters from Little Conewango Creek completely covered Coldspring Road at Price Corners. Juanita Brooks, of nearby Boyer Road, said the people who live near the creek always get flooded, but never as bad as this. They could not drive out of their yard and had to wade through knee-deep water just to leave their house to walk their dog.

People were dealing with high water and flooding throughout the town of Randolph. Many roads were like rivers forcing local travelers to find alternative routes through the area.

Elm Creek flooded large areas of Weeden Road – deep enough for a few adventurous residents to take a swim in the muddy water. Other streets and roads were affected including a section of Coldspring Road about a half-mile from town where the road collapsed leaving a huge, deep hole. Other flooded roads included Corbett Hill, two sections of Ireland Road and a part of Washington Street.

On Tuesday morning Coldspring Fireman Joshua Green was stationed with a rescue truck at the entrance of Hatchery Road off of Route 394, which was washed out by the flash flood.

He said things had improved since earlier that morning. He described the conditions at the location saying there was so much water running across Route 394 and down Hatchery Road it looked like a river.

“We just got off of routes 242 and 394 where we had to shut down the road between East Randolph and Little Valley because of floodwaters crossing the road,” he said. “Right now, Route 242 is back open and we are waiting to hear back if we can open up Hatchery Road.”

According to Green, the New York State Department of Transportation told the fire department that a 4-foot sluice, recently installed by the town of Randolph, washed out on Route 241, near Cardinal Hills Golf Course – leaving a 10-foot hole in the road.

Green said before the Coldspring Fire Department got “toned out” Tuesday morning, Randolph Fire Department was called out around 6:30 a.m. because water was rushing off of Corbett Hill down onto Interstate 86 and causing issues in that location.

“From what we’ve heard, Cattaraugus County is under a state of emergency all the way from Randolph to Little Valley, Gowanda and Silver Creek,” he said.

Marshall “Sandy” Marsh, of Hatchery Road, said the rain was pouring down hard, but he didn’t realize the damage it was causing until he got up Tuesday morning and looked out his upstairs bedroom window.

“The water rushed down the hill like a river and into my yard,” he said. “It went down the back driveway and through my barn – leaving huge stones, gravel and sinkholes. It continued on down toward the fish hatchery.”

Marsh said it would probably take a couple of weeks or maybe a couple of months’ work to clean it up. He noted that more water, from another creek, came across the road below him by Sam McElwain’s. There were also a couple of trees washed into the road, blocking it off.

“We had a similar flood like this in the ’70s. The water was even deeper, about a foot-and-a-half, with boulders. It was impassable for days,” he recalled.

There was also flooding at the Randolph Fish Hatchery, located on Hatchery Road, resulting in about a foot of standing water inside the “nursery” building. Hatchery Manager Richard Borner said he thought the fish at the hatchery were alright, but they had to check the outside ponds. As long as silt and mud from the floodwaters didn’t get into the ponds – lowering oxygen levels, which would make it hard for the fish to breathe, they’d be alright. Jim Graser, hatchery employee, had to use a canoe to check the grounds for damage.

Joyce Derby of Spring Street was helping her granddaughter, Makena, and daughter, Tammy Adams place sandbags on the edge of their yard on Hatchery Road, in an attempt to keep the waters from flooding their yard any further.

Her husband, Ralph, is a school bus driver for Randolph Central School. Derby said he picks their granddaughter up for school every morning, but this morning was different.

“He got a little ways up Hatchery Road and called Tammy, our daughter, and said, ‘I don’t think Makena is going to school today.’ She asked why and he told her to look out her window,” she said.

“It’s was awful,” she continued. “There was water everywhere you looked and just one big mess. I don’t know how we’ll ever get this taken care of.”

She noted that the staff at the fish hatchery, next door, helped them immensely by bringing them sandbags, so they could redirect some of the water away from the house and back into the creek.

Derby reminisced as she said her mom and dad bought the house when she was 4 years old. Now retired, she commented that she’s never seen this much water come through there before.