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Man presumed dead after Syracuse storm surge

Ellen Abbott
The corner of Croly and E. Fayette Streets the day after the storm surge.

A Syracuse man, who was being a good Samaritan, is believed to have drowned after a freak accident during Tuesday night’s torrential rains.

Authorities believe 28-year old Brandon Closure was swept away into the city’s storm sewer system, after he accidentally stepped into an open manhole blown open by surging rain water. He was trying to help a disabled motorist at the corner of Croly and East Fayette Streets on Syracuse’s eastside.  

Mayor Stephanie Miner says it’s a sad situation that sends a lesson.

“I want to use this tragedy as an example, to say to people that this is why, when you see water you should turn around.  As the saying my police chief told me, ‘if you can’t see the ground turn around,’” the mayor said.

Miner says the accident had nothing to do with Syracuse’s crumbling infrastructure, but was simply a matter of math.  More than 2.5 inches of rain fell Tuesday, 1.5 inches of it in just 30 minutes that evening.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and other city officials at a news conference Wednesday.

Syracuse Public Works Director Pete O’Connor says the manhole covers pop out onto the road when there is a major storm surge.

"If they didn’t do that then it would start exploding within, and you would have collapses in the road. And then when people start driving through the puddles, the floods, they’d be driving in a collapsed road."

O’Connor said when the storm surge occurred on Tuesday, the system was already waterlogged.

"What happens is the sewer system gets totally filled to capacity. And the water was flowing unbelievably fast,” said O’Connor. “I couldn’t believe how fast that water was and how high it was.”  

The city is working with Onondaga County to try to locate Closure’s body, using cameras in the sewer system, which at some points is wide enough to walk through.  

Tuesday night’s storm left Interstate 81 flooded and shut down for a while. More than a dozen residents are being housed in a Red Cross Shelter after rains flooded their homes.