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Waiting and watching for potential lakeshore flooding

Credit Veronica Volk / WXXI News

This remains an anxious time for people who live near the Lake Ontario shoreline. There will be a lot of watchful eyes on water levels in the coming weeks.

While there hasn’t been any widespread flooding yet, like residents saw two years ago, the level of Lake Ontario has been rising, due to a number of factors.

The board that monitors the lake conditions for the International Joint Commission, the joint U.S.-Canadian agency, says the main drivers behind the higher levels include the water coming into Lake Ontario from Lake Erie and the Niagara River, as well as the recent rains.

The board can somewhat affect the level of Lake Ontario by controlling a dam on the Saint Lawrence River, but that is a balancing act as the agency tries to avoid actions that will exacerbate the flooding in Quebec.

Another factor that could determine how much flooding local shoreline residents see is the winds. If they come in from a more northerly direction, as the forecast calls for early in the week, that increases the chances for some flooding.

And the Lake Ontario level is still forecast to rise several inches over the next few weeks.

Bryce Carmichael with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told North Country Public Radio that Lake Ontario  is forecast to rise another seven inches over the next month.

"It’s really still too early to say when we’ll start seeing crests. The Ottawa River has also been seeing increased precipitation, and that flow out of the Ottawa River into the lower St. Lawrence River has impacted areas that have already seen lots of flooding. In effect, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence are between a rock and a hard place," Carmichael explained.

"Upstream, Lake Erie is at historic highs, and that water can’t be held back. And downstream, the Ottawa River is already flooding. In other words, there’s nowhere for the water to go without causing damage," Carmichael said.

Local, state and federal governments have been working to prepare as best they can, including providing thousands of sandbags as well as water pumps and aqua dams. which are temporary dams set up to try and hold back flood waters.

Officials are hopeful that steps taken since the devastating flooding of two years ago will help mitigate the potential damage this time around.

Copyright 2019 WXXI News

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.