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Ithaca Officials: Flooding disaster narrowly avoided

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Ithaca Officials: Flooding disaster narrowly avoided
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The City of Ithaca remains under a State of Emergency after ice jams threatened the safety of several neighborhoods. Floodwaters have receded, and clean-up is underway. Tamara Lindstrom tells us what residents can expect in the coming days, and how much it's all going to cost.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The threat of widespread flooding had emergency responders in Ithaca preparing for disaster. But a week of around-the-clock battles with ice and water paid off.

"We narrowly averted, but we did avert, one of the worst natural disasters in the city's history," said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

On Tuesday, Myrick credited the teamwork of city, county and state agencies with keeping the community safe, and the water under control.

Flooding began more than a week ago when massive ice jams stopped up Fall and Cascadilla Creeks, forcing water into streets and basements.

Heavy equipment was called in to break up the ice while hundreds of volunteers filled and delivered sand bags to neighbors.

"It's obvious when we see how close that freezing cold water was to cresting," Myrick said. "We know that if we hadn't done what we did in the three of four days before the event, we were facing one of the worst natural disasters in the city's history."

The Mayor estimates the cost of the overtime hours and equipment rentals to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. But he says without all the planning and preparation, the city would have paid a much higher price.

"We prevented millions of dollars of property damage," Myrick said. "So it was absolutely worth it."

A State of Emergency remains in effect while crews continue to clean up after the flooding.

"By keeping the state of emergency, we're able to hang onto that equipment, track it, and hopefully down the line get some reimbursement," said Chief of Staff Kevin Sutherland.

Plans to dredge flood control channels are in place for the spring. But city leaders aren't sure that will prevent future bouts with ice.

Ithaca has faced similar problems with ice jams back in 1913, 1928 and 1948. The Mayor said this year's use of warm water from the Wastewater Treatment Facility proved much more effective than the dynamite used to break up the ice in the last century.

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