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Officials say wet weather is hampering Lake Ontario flooding response

Dale Currier
Oswego County Emergency Management Office
New York State National Guard soldiers fill sandbags in Oswego County. More than 200 soldiers have been deployed to help four counties along Lake Ontario deal with flooding.

The water level in Lake Ontario is now higher than is been in more than 60 years, before water levels started being regulated in the 1950s.

On Tuesday, more than 200 New York National Guard soldiers were on the ground in four of the seven counties along Lake Ontario that are currently in a state of emergency. For now, they are filling sandbags with no need to evacuate residents.

Still, National Guard spokesperson Col. Richard Goldenberg says the guard's very involvement in the situation is unprecedented.

"Certainly there has been a number of other opportunities where heavy snows have impeded local community response and there have been times where spring floods have been resulting in challenges for local response authorities, but this is the first time that we have ever turned our eyes to Lake Ontario that I can recall," Goldenberg said. 

The crisis has prompted the International Joint Commission (IJC) to increase outflows from the lake to the Saint Lawrence River. but the U.S. representative on the board, Keith Koralewski, says their efforts are being thwarted by the weather, with last week being one of the wettest on record for early May.

"It's going to be very difficult for the lake to go down there's just only so much water that the Saint Lawrence river can handle," Koralewski said. "It's essentially a big reservoir and it will take awhile to 'drain the Lake' to get the levels down."

According to the IJC, water levels in Lake Ontario have increased by 9 inches since may first.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.