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Cortland flooding forces nursing home and Wal-Mart evacuations

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Cortland flooding forces nursing home and Wal-Mart evacuations
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The cleanup is underway in Cortland after flash flooding damaged several areas. Before the water receded, nearly 200 people were evacuated from homes and businesses. Our Candace Hopkins has details on Thursday night's water rescues.

CORTLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Cortland County Undersheriff Herb Barnhart describes the extreme weather that hit the region Thursday night.

"It was unexpected. Everyone was watching the radar, but no one had anticipated there was that much volume of rain," Barnhart said.

As many as four inches of rain fell across Central New York Thursday night, stunning local officials and residents. By midnight, flash flooding had overtaken several areas in Cortland, including Bennie Road.

Video posted by a Facebook user showed the moments right after the waters moved in.

"It was kinda an amazing sight to see, but scary at the same time and I know I didn't get home until 8:45 this morning," said Cortland Wal-Mart employee Robin Speary.

Speary was working inside Wal-Mart when the water started pouring through the front doors.

"They tried to stop it with cat litter bags and it wasn't able to stop the water flow, so they eventually took us, all the employees that were there and the customers that were left, through the back exits, when the Marathon Fire Department, Homer and Cortlandville did the evacuation with a fan boat."

Just across the street, staff at the Walden Place nursing home were tasked with getting 70 patients to safety. Many went to stay with family or to hotels, with the remaining 15 placed at a nearby hospital.

"The staff was very well prepared and we had the residents greeted here and probably settled in within 20 minutes, so they had a very comfortable night," said Mary Wright of the Cortland Regional Nursing and Rehab Center.

Officials say the evacuation went smoothly because the nursing home had a pre-set emergency plan and it was executed effectively.

"You need to have your resources in place, you need to know where to go in case of an emergency, you need to know who to contact in case of an emergency, those are all things that even in your own home you should have," said Barnhart.

Assessment teams spent Thursday touring the flooded areas, but officials say it will be several days before the full extent of the damage is known.

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