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Break in weather gives residents along Lake Ontario time to 'catch up' on flooding

For the fishing and tourism Village of Olcott on the Lake Ontario shore, Sunday was an opportunity to recover from the terrible weather of recent weeks.

The air was filled with the sound of a pump moving water out of the village from right along the lake and from a nearly overflowing pond just inland from the lake. The pond's water was held in place by an emergency sand wall bulldozed into place.

Other pumps were all over the area, surrounding the harbor and 18-Mile Creek area, with lake levels said to be four feet above what they were a year ago. Olcott Fire Chief Stephen Miller said he remains concerned because levels are expected to rise for several more weeks, although winds and rain were not making things worse on Sunday.

"My goal right now is just trying to pre-plan, keep the water out as long as we can, keep people in their homes and keep them safe," Miller said. "We're going to try to do it as long as we can and hopefully we can get past it, the June deadline, kind of when the lake peaks and kind of be a win for us. But it's not a win truthfully, but we're just trying."

Thirty-one-year resident Cindy Horner said her home is pretty safe now, although the water is very high.

"We did have to sandbag one year,  in 1994 I believe it was, '93 or '94, but it was never anything like that since I was here," Horner said. "My fiance, he's been here all his life and he did have to sandbag one other time when it got really bad and that was in '73 or '74, something like that."

Horner said residents have their furnaces in the attic so they are not damaged by the high water. Marie Sharp said she knows the cause of the problems.

"We're going to be losing our sailing season, our summer season," Sharp said. "It's going to be horrible and it's because of the riparian 2014. We would like them to repeal that."

She was referring to the joint U.S.-Canada deal that is letting lake levels rise. Sharp said water levels at the Olcott Yacht Club are four feet higher than last year, damaging a new concrete harbor wall.

While the lake can be lowered slowly by a control dam at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, that would add to the flooding farther downriver around Montreal.

There did not appear to be any boats in the water in Olcott, although there were many in their winter shrinkwrap waiting to be lowered into the water in a longtime traditional fishing and boating area, heavily dependent on summer spending. One local boater said he will not be using his watercraft on Lake Ontario this year, pointing to logs and other large pieces of debris visibly floating at the harbor.

Meanwhile, with water levels still rising in Canada, additional Canadian military personnel have been deployed in Quebec's vast flood zone to help exhausted residents battle the unrelenting deluge. Quebec has been devastated, with nearly 1,900 flooded homes in roughly 130 municipalities - and there's still no relief in sight.

National Defence said approximately 800 additional troops were deployed in the province on Sunday, joining more than 400 Canadian Armed Forces members already assisting with the flood effort. The troops, along with aircraft and a dozen boats, are aiding communities across Quebec, several of which are under states of emergency.

Montreal declared a state of emergency Sunday after three dikes collapsed in the north end of the city. Mayor Denis Coderre said about 220 residents had been evacuated and that officials were prepared to remove any people who ignored evacuation orders.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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