Ice Jam Flooding Hits Sunset Bay

February 18, 2011 Updated Feb 19, 2011 at 12:22 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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February 18, 2011 Updated Feb 19, 2011 at 12:22 AM EDT

Sunset Bay (WKBW) All it took was 2 days of fifty degree temperatures to turn frozen, snow covered creeks and rivers into flowing water full of ice. Ice that can jam up and become the source of flood waters. That fact was no more evident than in Sunset Bay Friday night.

At three o'clock Friday afternoon, Cattaraugus Creek in Sunset Bay was flowing steadily. Large chunks of ice floated downstream towards Lake Erie. Only an hour later, the movement stopped. A giant ice jam had built up at the mouth of the creek, leaving the water to rise, and rise quickly.

Mark Dietzen is the First Assistant Chief of the Sunset Bay Fire Company. "It literally takes a minute or two for the water to raise six, seven, eight feet. To come on land and get on the roadways," he said.

Within a few hours, water from melting snow became full-fledged floodwater, with warmer temperatures to blame.

"The lake's ice is a lot thicker, that's why the ice jams that are a little bit thinner do this. A couple days of fifty degree weather, they melt and they meet up with the lake and it doesn't allow it to flow out the way that it should," Dietzen said.

Seventy-six year old Donna Eberhardt narrowly escaped the rising waters, and was brought to safety by local sheriffs deputies.

"I looked out my one window and saw grass, sidewalks, just like always. The other window I looked out, it was about six inches of water rushing all past the house," she said.

The Town of Hanover put residents on a recommended evacuation, and Eberhardt was able to get out before the flood put her in danger.

"Very, very, scary. I was looking for Noah and his ark, that's what I was looking for," she said.

Strong winds only added to the problem, blowing upriver and slowing down the ice flow even more.

Emergency responders credited hard work and preparation to minimize flood damage and avoid harm to any residents.