Water levels rise as City of Ithaca tries to break up ice jam

The water in his basement is waist deep and his furnace is flooded out but Paul Davis was still able to get to his car. On Monday afternoon, he went out to a hardware store and bought supplies for his neighbors who needed help.

"I think I've picked up three sump pumps today," said Davis as he walked through several inches of water on Dey Street.

An ice jam in Cascadilla Gorge blocked melting snow from moving through so the water backed up into Ithaca's Fall Creek neighborhood. The city DPW attempted to break the ice chunks up but could only open a narrow channel. Now the Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick says city crews are in a race against time to get the water moving again.

"We have about an eight hour window where we can break this ice jam, get the water through and then the water on the streets will go down and water will come out of people's homes. If we don't, we have sub-zero temperatures tonight," said Myrick

If heavy equipment can not break up the ice jam, Ithaca could have an even bigger problem on Tuesday.

"Right now the water doesn't have anywhere to go and tonight and tomorrow with freezing temperatures, not only is it going to back up but it is going to freeze - and that's going to compound the problem," said Jamie Williamson from the Ithaca Police Department.

Fire crews went door to door in the Fall Creek neighborhood on Monday afternoon to check on residents. Many neighbors built up snow and sandbags to block rising flood waters or moved their cars while they had the chance. In addition to sump pumps for his neighbors, Paul Davis also bough as many electric heaters as he could carry - hoping he could stay at home

"As long as we keep our electric we will at least be above freezing, which is critical as well because I don't want the pipes to freeze," said Davis.

Ithaca also working on contingency plans in case the ice jam reforms or gets worse in the overnight hours. Many neighbors were making arrangements to stay with family or friends if the city ordered them to evacuate.

As of late Monday night, several blocks in Ithaca were still experiencing localized flooding. The 300 block of Dey Street, 400 block of Adams Street, and Franklin Street from the Piggery East to Cascadilla Creek were still closed to traffic. Parking is prohibited at these locations.

A few blocks reopened but are still preventing parking. These blocks including the 200 and 300 blocks of West Lincoln Street, the 100, 200, and 300 blocks of Franklin Street, the 200 block of Dey Street, and all of Short Street.

City officials expect the remaining water in the streets to freeze as temperatures begin to drop.

If you have water in your home and do not have an operating sump-pump, you can contact the Ithaca Fire Department for assistance at (607) 273-7288.