Flood waters holding

SARANAC LAKE – Water levels in Lake Flower and the Saranac River remained high this morning but didn’t appear to rise much overnight, less than 12 hours after village officials warned lake and riverfront property owners to expect some localized flooding due to days of incessant rain.

“It held exactly where it was yesterday, so that’s good for us,” village Manger John Sweeney said this morning. “If we get some decent weather, without any new rain, maybe things will start to come down.”

Late Thursday afternoon, Sweeney said village officials were expecting to see some flooding of low-lying areas along Lake Flower and the Saranac River.

“We do have additional water coming at us,” he said at the time. “(The flooding) will be localized and very limited, is what we anticipate, but we’re trying to do a little pre-planning on it.”

“We’ve been going up and down the streets warning people that there is that potential, and offering sandbag assistance and making sure everybody’s aware,” Mayor Clyde Rabideau said. “Given the fact that we had huge flooding just two years ago, everybody’s on edge.”

Some minor flooding could already be seen late Thursday afternoon at the usual high-water benchmarks around the village.

Above the Lake Flower dam, water had pooled up onto the lawns of several homes on Duprey Street. At Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, motel employees and a large group of volunteers moved furniture and furnishings from the motel’s lake-level rooms to higher ground and placed sandbags in front of the rooms. The water had already climbed over a 3-foot high retaining wall along the motel’s shore.

Below the dam, the Saranac River had risen several inches up the porch of the former Dew Drop Inn. Downstream it was just starting to spill over its banks next to the Warehouse Coinwash plaza on Woodruff Street.

With no new rain overnight, there wasn’t much change in the water levels above and below the dam, but village officials were still monitoring the situation.

“We’re holding,” Sweeney said this morning.

Village officials held a planning meeting Thursday with representatives of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, the state Office of Emergency Management, state Department of Environmental Conservation and Franklin County Emergency Services. Firefighters later went door to door to notify property owners in flood-prone areas of the potential that the water could rise. At the village’s request, the county made reverse 911 calls to some residents to inform them of the situation.

Part of the reason the village was sounding the alarm, Sweeney said, was because DEC was planning to let more water out at its lower locks on the Saranac River, upstream from Lake Flower.

“They have the same issues we do,” Sweeney said at the time. “They can’t hold it back anymore. They’re seeing flooding in their areas, from Ampersand Bay to the Lower Locks and above that. They’re trying to slow it down, but they also realize they’ve got to get some of the water out of there or they’re going to have more damage, too.

“We’re trying to work together. We’re sending as much downstream (from the Lake Flower dam) as possible. If we open it all up, we’re going to flood a bunch of people downstream.”

As of late Thursday, the water level at the village-run dam was 19 inches above its spillway. Its gates were open 48 inches.

For comparison, at the peak of the spring 2011 floods, the water level at the dam was 38 inches above the spillway. The floodgates were opened a combined 68 inches then.

“At this point in time, we’re not anywhere in line with what we saw two years ago,” Sweeney said. “This is minimal from that point, but still we’re trying to prepare for it.”

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve, and we’re gathering our resources just in case,” said fire Chief Brendan Keough.

Another meeting of village and emergency services officials was scheduled to take place this morning.

Sweeney said village employees and a volunteer crew of Saranac Lake rugby players filled an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 sandbags Thursday night. He said about 500 were still available at the village’s sand storage shed on Van Buren Street should the water levels rise again.

Sweeney said anyone with flooding problems or concerns should contact the fire department at 891-2211.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.