September 8, 2011

University Closes Due to Area Flooding

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Updated 8:55 a.m.: The University closed at 5 a.m. Thursday after the Tompkins County Sheriff closed all roads in the county. The University will reopen at 11 a.m., and classes scheduled to begin after 11 will be held.

All TCAT bus service was suspended Thursday morning, but limited service will begin at 10 a.m.

Sheriff Ken Lansing issued an order at 4 a.m. prohibiting all non-emergency travel on county roads. The order was lifted at 9 a.m. and replaced by a travel advisory, urging drivers to exercise “extreme caution.” The order followed heavy rains that fell for much of the day Wednesday.

Although no serious flooding was reported on campus, University officials cautioned students to stay away from the gorges near campus. Waters are high and the cliff faces of the gorges may be unstable, Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner said.

“The gorges are dangerous to begin with. They are absolutely deadly in conditions like this,” said Joe Lalley, director of administration and operations support for facilities services.

“The problem is even though the rains stops, the water doesn’t,” Zoner said. “We want people to stay out of the gorges.”

Tompkins County received heavy rain for much of the day on Wednesday as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee moved through the area. Some additional rain was also expected for Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Fall Creek, which runs between Central and North Campuses. The weather service predicted the creek will crest at 6.1 feet — slightly above its flood stage of six feet — late Thursday morning.

Brian Wilbur, interim communications center manager at the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response, said that it is important that students avoid flooded roadways.

“Flash floods could take a lot of different forms, and this could definitely affect walkways where students tend to commute on campus,” Wilbur said.

Some students who ventured out on Wednesday night said they encountered dangerous conditions.

“I was driving at around 6 p.m. and realized the roads were getting pretty bad,” Morgan Howard ’14 said. “Some side streets were extremely flooded so I had to keep to main roads. It was actually pretty scary.”

Schools throughout the Ithaca area cancelled classes on Thursday. Several municipalities also declared states of emergency.

Counties to the south and east of Tompkins County were experiencing “very bad flooding,” Lalley, from facilities services, said.

Alyson Warhit contributed reporting to this article. Continue checking for updates throughout the day.

Original Author: Michael Linhorst