Camillus, N.Y. — An army of friends and family members helped Matt and Katie Smith haul out the damaged contents of their Camillus home décor shop Friday after the worst flood in nearly 50 years gurgled up the storm drains, filled basements and turned the neighborhood streets into a kayak route.
As many as 7 inches of rain fell in three days in parts of Central New York, closing scores of roads and flooding homes across the region.
Camillus and Marcellus were particularly hard hit when the rain pushed Ninemile Creek over its banks Thursday. In Oneida County, some people were forced to evacuate their homes in Westernville.
“There was just too much rain,” said Camillus Mayor Dick Waterman, who walked the streets Friday morning while fire and utility crews pumped out basements and assessed the damage. “This is the worst we’ve seen since the hurricane of 1972.”
In Camillus, about 24 homes have had their power and gas shut off, Waterman said.
He is still talking with other mayors, neighbors and insurance companies to sort out whether there will be financial help from the state or federal government. Most people have flood insurance, but not everyone, he said.
Neighbors, who affectionately refer to the waterway as “the crick,” are already calling Thursday’s event the “50-year flood.”
Neighbors are used to watching the creek rise when there are heavy rains.
Ann Eckert grew up on South Street in a family of 19 children and bought the family home about 20 years ago. Like her neighbors, she checked the water level behind her garage around 7 a.m. Thursday, then went to work.
Within hours, her husband was texting pictures of submerged cars and kids riding kayaks down the street in three feet of water. The family pulled their own canoe to higher ground in case someone needed it.
As the street flooded, neighbors gathered outside to account for everyone. It was still possible to walk in the street. But people coordinated to get pets onto boats.
By 9 a.m., the water had filled garages and basements, destroying furnaces, air conditioning units, laundry rooms and more. A Honda Accord was submerged at one home.
The Smiths were opening their two-year-old home décor store, the Smith & Bell Trading Company, when water started coming up the drain pipes.
“We heard gurgling,” Matt Smith said. “Then it started gushing.”
They tried to contain it. The two pushed the furniture into a line to make a path for the water to flow through the middle of the rooms and avoid the items for sale, he said.
They put lamps, vases, sets of dishes and other small items on top of dressers and cabinets.
“It was just too daunting,” he said. “We had stuff that was 40 or 50 pounds just lifted up.”
Matt Smith said his concern is for the neighbors who lost valuables inside their homes.
“I’m more worried about the people in these houses,” he said. “We’re just a business. We can throw it out.”
Joe and Kris Flask were at work when the water flooded their garage and basement.
“Everybody I talk to says ‘Six inches?’,” Kris Flask said. “I say ‘No, six feet!’”
No one was hurt in Thursday’s flood. Neighbors said they are grateful to live in a place where people look out for each other. Most people are staying with family.
Rebecca Grabowski drove back to the house she rents on South Street to retrieve some things.
Front porches and driveways are piled high with furniture, toys, lawn mowers and gas cans rescued from garages and basements. People dragged rugs outside. Car doors were left open to dry the insides.
“Everybody’s helping everybody,” she said. “The people we’re really worried about are the Smith & Bell people. That’s who needs help the most at this point.”
Read more about flooding this week in Central New York:
Amazing drone photos show how bad flooding is in Central New York communities
How much rain fell in Upstate NY’s ‘astounding’ 3-day deluge? One spot had 7.6 inches (chart)
Flooded Marcellus home owner: ‘It has never been this bad’
See photos, videos of flooding that’s hit hard across Central New York
Flooding hammers Syracuse as creeks rage, sewers back up, basements flood
Severe flooding leads city officials to close parts of Onondaga Creekwalk in Syracuse
Heavy rains caused flash flooding in CNY: Roads closed, evacuations underway
Heavy rains flood scores of basements, close roads across Onondaga County; more rain falling
Sections of NY Canal system closed by intense rainfall
Contact Michelle Breidenbach | [email protected] | 315-470-3186.