Police search for people after flood

FORT PLAIN – Authorities are searching for people missing due to flooding Friday in the village, Fort Plain Police Chief Robert?A. Thomas III said.

The flooding was so severe in the village and surrounding area, Montgomery County was declared a disaster area Friday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a disaster declaration for Montgomery County after water levels rose several feet on the Otsquago Creek and Mohawk River on Friday.

According to reports from locals and county officials, the water level first rose on Reid Street in Fort Plain at roughly 6 a.m. Friday overflowing into several backyards.

In a news release, Thomas said officers and Montgomery?County sheriff’s deputies responded to the area of Abbott and Reid streets in the village on Friday morning after receiving reports about the rapidly rising water.

Thomas said officers made contact with as many people as possible to alert them to the flooding. Several residents left their homes, he said, but others declined to leave.

Mid-evacuation, water poured in, covering the area in minutes. Officers were eventually stranded at the far end of Abbott Street, he said, where they remained until around mid-day.

As the water rose, Thomas said, several residents left, scattering over a large hill behind their homes to avoid the water.

“At the time we were powerless to intercede with boats due to the rapid waters and the large quantities of debris. We were able to survey the area with a state police helicopter, but the area is grown over and made it difficult to see everything,” Thomas said in the release. “Now that the waters have subsided partially, efforts are underway to account for those who left the area.”

Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said 50 to 100 homes in the village had to be evacuated and Harry Hoag Elementary School was being used as an evacuation center.

Schwabrow said it is unclear when the village would be considered safe.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 50 people were still using the shelter. Many in the shelter were from Reid and Abbott streets.

Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer said two bridges were closed. One bridge, near the Minden Town Hall, was damaged by the water flow. The other bridge, in the village, had a propane tank lodged into the structure and will be closed until it can be removed. Thayer said work is currently ongoing.

Linda Scaffidi-Fonti, a resident of the village and owner of Linda’s Consignments, said the water in the streets was like a river early Friday morning. Inside her consignment shop, mud and water had damaged much of her stock on the first floor.

“Oh god, it got the wedding dresses,” she said while inspecting the damage.

Scaffidi-Fonti said a lot of the locals have been very supportive.

“You can see they came in and shoveled,” She said, pointing to the cleared floor. “I couldn’t get in, in the beginning.”

Main Street still had debris in the streets, with trees, branches and even a large, wooden reel in the road.

Jeff Smith, undersheriff for Montgomery County and chief of the Fort Plain Fire Department, said Canal Street was hit with 3 to 3 1/2 feet of water.

Angela Frederick, co-owner of the Erie Station Bar and Grill, said they were two weeks away from opening their new bar.

“Everything down here is gone,” Frederick said.

Frederick said she does not know what to do next.

“We’re not sure. Insurance didn’t cover anything,” Frederick said.

Charley Brown, manager of the Stewart’s Shop in Fort Plain, said only a bit of water entered in the front of the store.

“When I got here at 7, the water was already up to the sidewalk,” Brown said.

Brown said the store was closed for a short period, to make sure no major damage would occur before it was reopened.

The flooding came after another emergency Thursday in Montgomery?County, when a train derailment in the town of Mohawk caused Route 5 to close.

At a press conference in Canajoharie on Friday afternoon, Cuomo asked for residents to be prepared to move in case of further flooding.

More than 100 firefighters from multiple departments assisted Fort Plain, Smith said.

Thomas said anyone who left the Abbott and Reid street areas should call the police at 993-3781 to let officers know they are safe.