Flash floods strike Finger Lakes region

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express
This retaining wall and the Showboat Restaurant's equipment pad were destroyed by the rushing flood waters.

FINGER LAKES – In the latest of this summer's relatively small but extreme weather events, the Finger Lakes region was struck last week with intense rain storms that brought flash flooding to local communities, closing roads, damaging property, and prompting navigation warnings for floating debris in the lakes.


An image captured from a live video posted by the Showboat Motel on its Facebook page during the flash flood.

The Himrod area in the Town of Milo was especially hard hit with rain Saturday, July 17. Parts of Himrod Road between there and Penn Yan were completely submerged and had to be closed to all traffic. Ditches overflowed and downward sloping roads were overtopped with the torrential runoff. 

Guests navigate the slick mud left on the deck as they make their way between their rooms and their boats docked at the Showboat.
Boat owners scrambled to remove logs and other debris from the boat slips to protect their speedboats.
The high water, floating logs, and waves put many boats and lifts in peril following the rainstorms.

The hardest blow came at Plum Point on Seneca Lake where the stream running beside the Showboat Motel and restaurant overflowed its banks as road culverts clogged with logs, limbs, and debris washed down the gullies. The parking lot surfaces was washed away as the water rose around the cars and flooded lower level rooms at the restaurant. Large concrete retaining wall blocks were dislodged by the forceful waterflow, and the concrete pad beneath some of the restaurant's equipment was completely undermined. The water flowed over the road, over the breakwall, and onto the Showboat's deck and docks, fully occupied by large, high-powered speedboats belonging to guests staying at the motel for a weekend boat race.

The Showboat recovered quickly, cleaning and reopening the restaurant and lower rooms and resurfacing the parking lots within days.

This culvert at Plum Point on Seneca Lake was choked with logs and large limbs during Saturday night's flash flood.
Some of the logs removed from the culvert that added to the flooding at the Showboat.
The stream running beside the Showboat Restaurant.


The steep hills and streets of Watkins Glen soon brought several feet of water into the lowest parts of the village.
Franklin Street / Route 14 in Watkins Glen was submerged by flash flooding July 20.

Just three night later, July 20, the Village of Watkins Glen was also flooded. At 9:10 p.m. the WGPD posted this warning on social media: "There is severe flooding all through the village due to the heavy rain. Several areas of the village are under several feet of water. Please avoid driving though the village unless it’s an emergency. Do not drive through standing water if you come upon it. Please do not tie up the 911 emergency line, or non emergency line, with questions regarding power outages or non emergency concerns as the dispatch center is extremely busy."

Large logs and other floating debris remain a hazard on Keuka and Seneca lakes, with county sheriffs urging boaters to proceed with caution, and lakefront homeowners and visitors having to cope with the remnants washing up on shore and in some cases, alteration of the shoreline itself.