Friday-Saturday, January 19-20, 1996
Severe Floods

The Set Up

A deep low pressure trough prevailing at the jet stream level over the eastern U.S. was particularly active in January, 1996 supporting six major storms including the blizzard of '96 that paralyzed the major cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston, MA. The blizzard had little impact from Albany on north, as there was an extremely sharp cut off to the northern extent of the snow. But, through areas south and east of Albany, including much of the Catskills to Columbia and Berkshire counties on south, snow piled up to around 30" in some areas.

Had the blizzard actually hit the Capital Region it would have only added to the already huge snow pack on the ground. Heavy snows in December 1995 and through early January 1996 left a couple of feet on the ground which, with the persistent very cold weather, had not melted to any great extent. A major storm the beginning of January dumped between ten and fifteen inches of snow on the Capital region. That storm was followed by another on the 12th which dumped eleven inches. Then, during the second two weeks of January, the prevailing upper air low pressure trough shifted from its position over the east to a new position over the Midwest putting halt to the onslaught of snow storms. The trough, in its new position, remained energetic, though, generating three major storms.  These storms, however, tracked west of the Appalachians and up through the St. Lawrence valley. The westward track of these storms allowed them to circulate air of moderate temperature into the Northeast producing buckets of heavy rainfall rather than mountains of snow.

So the stage was set for January 19, when a major storm tracked up the St. Lawrence valley, bringing high wind, record temperatures to sixty degrees, and a basin wide average of two to four inches of rain.  Wind gusts over 30 mph in the warm air combined with the 60° temperatures caused an extremely rapid and massive snow melt of the almost two feet of snow that had been on the ground throughout the region the day before.  The heavy rain in conjunction with the tremendous runoff from the snow melt along with a series of severe ice jams, caused some of the most severe flooding on area streams and rivers in over a decade. The resulting floods and mudslides caused millions of dollars in property damage throughout eastern New York and western New England. The Schoharie Creek through Schoharie and Greene counties rose to record levels during the night of the 19th and accounted for some of the most severe flooding of the event in the region. The Hudson and Mohawk rivers crested on the 20th, considerably above flood stage, inundating parts of Waterford, Lansingburgh, Troy, Albany, and Schenectady to name just a few of the affected communities.

January 19-20, 1996 River Crests

River Name Observation Station Flood Stage

1996 Crest

Previous or Current Record Crest
Schoharie Creek        
  Prattsville, NY 13 Feet 19.30* Feet 1/19 (A Record) 19.14 Feet 10/16/55
  Middleburgh, NY 14 Feet N/A 22.00 Feet 10/16/55
  Burtonsville, NY 6 Feet 12.82 Feet 1/20 (A Record) 12.39 Feet 10/16/55
Mohawk River        
  Little Falls, NY 15 Feet 17.60 Feet 1/19 19.17 Feet 3/14/77
  Schenectady, NY 223 Feet 228 Feet 1/20 232.20 Feet 3/28/14
  Cohoes, NY 20 Feet 22.50 Feet 1/20 23.15 Feet 3/06/64
Sacandaga River        
  Hope, NY 7 Feet 9.30 Feet 1/19 12.00 Feet 2/20/81
Batten Kill River        
  Battenville, NY 11 Feet 11.20 Feet 1/19 17.70 Feet 11/04/27
Hoosic River        
  Eagle Bridge, NY 11 Feet 14.20 Feet 1/20 21.15 Feet 12/31/48
Hudson River        
  Hadley, NY 14 Feet 10.20 Feet 1/20 No Flood 23.00 Feet 3/27/13
  Fort Edward, NY 27.5 Feet 25.00 Feet 1/20 No Flood 28.34 Feet 5/03/83
  Troy, NY (Upper) 24 Feet 26.20 Feet 1/20 29.70 Feet 3/28/13
  Albany, NY 11 Feet 15.50 Feet 1/20 21.70 Feet 2/19/57
Esopus Creek        
  Cold Brook, NY 11 Feet 20.33 Feet 1/19 21.94 Feet 3/21/90
Wappingers Creek        
  Wappinger Falls, NY 8 Feet 10.30 Feet 1/20 19.6 Feet 8/19/55
Housatonic River        
  Great Barrington, MA 9 Feet 7.70 Feet 1/21  No Flood 12.08 Feet 1/01/49
  Stevenson, CT 12 Feet 17.60 Feet 1/20 24.50 Feet 10/16/55

(River stage information courtesy of the Albany, NY National Weather Service Forecast Office, Albany, NY)

Flood Photographs by Steve LaPointe

The Castaway Restaurant, Troy, NY

Photo #1: The Former Castaway Restaurant, Troy, NY

In January, 1996 this was the popular Castaway restaurant on the Hudson river in Troy close to the height of the flood. This photograph was taken from the Green Island bridge during the late morning of Saturday, January 20, 1996. Water rose to the bottom of the dining room windows inundating the deck as well as the parking lots adjacent to the river, but came just short of swamping the main areas of the building.

 

River Street, Troy, NY

Photo #2: River Street, Troy, NY

The Hudson swamped much of River Street in Troy, filling basements and first floor businesses with cold, murky water. This photograph was taken around noon on Saturday, January 20, 1996.

 

Swamped Cars on River Street, Troy, NY

Photo #3: Submerged Cars, Troy, NY

Surprising, given the advanced warning that the Hudson would be flooding, that the owners of these cars neglected to move their vehicles. The parking areas adjacent to the river were filled with up to four feet of water damaging a large number of parked cars. This photograph was taken around noon on Saturday, January 20, 1996.

 

Troy, NY

Photo #4: More Swamped Cars, Troy, NY

Another example of more cars taken out by the flood of 1996. This photograph was taken around noon on Saturday, January 20, 1996.

 

Waterford, NY

Photo #5: Waterford, NY

The Hudson and Mohawk flooded together which could only mean problems for Waterford where the two rivers meet. Flooding was extensive in the waterfront areas of Waterford. This photograph was taken during the early afternoon on Saturday, January 20, 1996.

 

Lansingburgh, NY

Photo #6: Lansingburgh, NY

All along the length of the Hudson through the Capital District, flooding occurred. This intersection in Lansingburgh adjacent to the river was closed down for over a day due to the flood waters. This photograph was taken during the early afternoon on Saturday, January 20, 1996.