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Thousands of sandbags prepped for Lake Ontario flooding

Veronica Volk
Sandbags stacked in Sodus Point, NY

With Lake Ontario's waters continuing to rise. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed state agencies to assist communities for possible flooding. 

More than 130,000 sandbags have been deployed to the region, as residents prepare for flooding in low-elevation areas.

In some areas, sandbags have been positioned in locations that experienced flooding in the past few days and weeks. Other state assets have been staged at the regional stockpile in Monroe County.

There has been no reported significant flooding so far, however out of an abundance of caution, Cuomo says communities are preparing for additional lake rises.

"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 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."

Lake Ontario is currently 18 inches above average for this time of year according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is expected to continue rising into May.

Some residents and local officials have blamed a new Lake Ontario management policy for the high waters. That policy, which took effect in January, will allow lake levels to fluctuate more.

But the Corps attributed the 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.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has deployed one sandbag filler and 60,000 sandbags to Niagara County, 30,000 sandbags to Orleans County, one sandbag filler to Monroe County, one sandbag filler and 30,000 sandbags to Wayne County, 13,000 sandbags to the Town of Huron (Wayne), and 12,000 sandbags to the Town of Wolcott (Wayne). 

Additionally, two high-axle vehicles have been positioned at the Chili Stockpile along with two Zodiac boats, and two additional sandbag fillers which have been moved from the Montgomery and Binghamton stockpiles. The stockpile in Chili is also fully stocked with generators, light towers, and barriers, for use throughout the potentially impacted areas.

State police equipment -- including 4x4s, high axle vehicles and boats -- is ready for deployment as needed.

Cuomo says that DOT crews have been actively working to clear culverts and drainage basins to help ensure they flow freely.

Cuomo urged boaters on Lake Ontario and the Saint 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.