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Sylvan Beach ice jam beginning to clear, flood waters receding

Oneida County Emergency Management officials say the ice jam, which caused high water to threaten homes in the resort village of Sylvan Beach in Oneida County, is clear.
Photos of the ice jam

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Sylvan Beach (WSYR-TV) – A large ice jam in Sylvan Beach forced 25 to 30 people from their homes on Thursday.

Tom McCarthy knew something was wrong by Noon.

"I saw the ice going down like mad.  I mean it was probably going like 30 mph," McCarthy said.

His wife, Pauline is in a wheelchair, unable to walk.  As neighbors evacuated their homes, rescuers moved in with boats to help.

"He just said, 'We've got to do something.  We've got to get out of here', so I hurried up and got my pills and whatever I could get," Pauline McCarthy recalled.

The McCarthy's and dozens of others left the village as water rose a few feet over roadways, in an area packed with homes and camps. The closest neighborhood affected by the flooding is Marina Drive, which is located on the far side of the village away from Oneida Lake. The county set up a shelter at Village Hall on Marina Drive for residents affected by the flooding.

"It kind of got scary and my fiancee were holding hands and she was getting nervous. We wanted to go see if we could save some stuff, but we had to turn back," said camp owner David Richardson.  "The docks were gone.  The decks were gone.  There is lawn furniture floating everywhere.  It is just a disaster down there."

Nearby, Mary Cooper's yard was covered in water.  She decided to stay home, despite warnings from the fire department.

"A lot of water, don't know where to go.  I've got animals in the house.  If we get evacuated, I don't know what is going to happen," Cooper said.

Children trying to get home from school were carried to safety as crews tried to convince more families to leave, many frustrated that all they could do was wait for the jam to clear.

"There have been a couple people asking if there is going to be dynamite to blow it up.  As soon as somebody touches that ice, it now becomes their issue, so if any other damage is caused, it is a liability for whoever touches the ice," said firefighter Rick Johnson.

After four frightening hours, the jam broke sending ice rushing toward the lake, finally clearing the way for families to end the night back in their homes.

"We've been married for 44 years this year so never go to bed without saying good night and a kiss," said Tom McCarthy.
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