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Niagara County prepares for flooding from Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

Niagara County is still in a state of emergency. On Saturday, Niagara County firefighters along with other volunteers joined the Olcott Fire Company in an effort to combat rising waters along Lake Ontario.

The crews worked to fill 60,000 sandbags to line up against the northern shore to prevent flooding and damage to nearby property. The lake is higher than its been in over 40 years and is expected to rise another foot.

Lake Ontario is currently 18 inches above average for this time of year, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and expectations are that the level will continue to rise into May, at which time some residents may have had to evacuate.

The Corps attributed the high water levels to higher-than-usual rates of precipitation and runoff.  About 40 percent of the lake water comes from local runoff and precipitation, with the remainder flowing in through the Niagara River.  To offset the rising levels, the Corps has increased outflow at the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River between Massena and Cornwall, Ontario, throughout the past week.

Governor Cuomo directed state agencies to assist local communities in Niagara County and elsewhere for possible flooding issues due to rising water levels on Lake Ontario.  

"After significant rain and runoff, we are seeing the waters on Lake Ontario rise to higher than normal levels," Cuomo said in a statement released on Sunday. "While there is no current danger to residents in the surrounding areas, I am directing state agencies to assist our local officials and for those who live in the area to prepare for potential flooding and stay tuned to local weather forecasts."

Cuomo says that DOT crews have been actively working to clear culverts and drainage basins to help ensure they flow freely. He urged boaters on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to be aware of floating debris such as logs and other items that can be encountered during spring run-off conditions and high water.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
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