Thousands in Binghamton forced to evacuate, take shelter

Evacuees gather at Binghamton University Thursday evening / photo: Caitlin Nuclo

For Shannon Osborne and her newborn daughter, it's been a tough 24 hours.

"She's not comfortable and I'm not comfortable. It's really tough because we have a lot of stuff in the house, we don't know what we lost. Because we weren't able to stay there," said Osborne.

Thursday night, Osborne was sleeping next to strangers. The Binghamton University Events Center is crowded with cots and flood victims, many of them desperate to know how their homes and loved ones, are faring against the flood waters.

"It's tough because everything you own is there. You don't want to leave your home especially with pets and stuff but we're managing," said Cindy Adams.

Thursday morning, water began to surge over flood walls built decades ago to tame the Susquehanna River. 20,000 people were ordered to head for higher ground and passage through Binghamton was banned to all but emergency officials as heavy rains pushed swollen rivers to record levels.

"The situation is dire," Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan told The Associated Press. "It's the worst flooding in the history of Binghamton at least since the flood walls were built in the 1930s and '40s."

Lingering rain from the tattered remains of Tropical Storm Lee swamped the region starting Wednesday, adding misery to a part of the country already sopping from the remnants of Irene 10 days earlier.

Dozens of homes and businesses were already flooding and Ryan worried about the concrete flood walls that funnel the river safely around the city of about 45,000 people. Water poured over the top of the walls Thursday, but if they were to break, "that could change the whole ballgame," Ryan said.

1,600 people are being housed at the events center, and it filled up late Thursday afternoon. The Red Cross says it will continue to open up shelters as flood victims need help.

Emergency officials are warning people not to wait it out. Crews have already answered more than 100 dangerous rescue calls.

"If water is coming up to your house, get out quick, better yet get out when it's coming up the street. Because if you wait and have to be rescued in a boat you are putting yourself and your family at risk and the emergency responders," said Broome County Director of Emergency Services Brett Chellis.

Those who escaped the flooding could be in shelter for a week and are praying that when the water goes down, they still have a house to go home to.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.