BLOOMINGDALE - B.J. Forrester loves living in her St. Armand home, which sits about 100 feet away from the banks of Sumner Brook. She says it's common seeing all types of birds visiting a feeder in the yard, numerous deer stopping by and every now and then, an occasional coyote or bear that happens to be passing through. And during the summer months, Forrester, who is retired, said she loves to work in her garden.
But seeing her house surrounded on all four sides by flood water has Forrester wondering how long she will be able to stay in this home, where she lives with her son Bob and their three cats.
The Forresters, and their neighbors off the beaten path on James Way, off the River Road are accustomed to seeing the high waters that come with the spring snowmelt and rain each year. It's just part of a way of life that comes along with living near the brook which, not far away, empties into the Saranac River.
Fred and Jean Parker stand on their porch Thursday afternoon as flood water creeps closer toward their home.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
B.J. and Bob Forrester's home
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
But this time around is quite different. An unusually snowy winter, heavy recent rains and this week's opening of the Lake Flower dam, miles upstream in Saranac Lake has the Forresters and nearby residents closer to losing their homes to flooding than ever before.
On Thursday, while B.J. was removing personal items from the house - including family photos - and storing them in a Chevrolet Suburban parked in the driveway in case the water didn't stop rising, Bob was wading through nearly three feet of water in the front yard.
"I don't know how high the water will go. Do you?" B.J. said as she stared at the water submerging their yard. "I have a garden in the back where sinkholes have appeared. I worry about that. I might not be gardening this year.
"I've looked at moving years down the road, but this has me thinking it could be earlier," she added. "I love it here, but this is tough to take. I'm moving things out of the house just in case. I know we aren't the only ones facing this situation."
"It's a mess. It's not good," Bob Forrester said. "I've only seen the water this high once, and that was during the ice storm. If the water keeps coming, it's going to keep coming. It's going to go where it wants to go. You can't stop it. There's not much we can do."
Although water has filled the entire crawl space under their home that stands on concrete footings, the Forresters were optimistic that it wouldn't creep up above the floor. For that to happen, the level would have to rise another 2 feet, which is a possibility they do consider. The overflowed brook and river have already risen several feet and spilled dozens of feet past their banks. Bob Forrester said one of his biggest concerns was that it usually takes the brook about three days to crest after heavy rainfalls.
Fred and Jean Parker, the Forresters' neighbors, have a snowman measuring stick in their backyard they use to record the depth of the winter snowfall. This week, Fred has been watching that measuring stick disappear under the rising waters. He said that between 7 p.m. Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, the water creeping toward their home had deepened by 8 inches.
The day before, Jean had been tending a small garden a few feet away from their back porch. On Thursday, tulips that had sprung from the soil in that garden could be seen submerged under about 6 inches of water.
"I feel we could lose everything, but I'm not going anywhere," said Fred, who has lived with Jean in their home since 1979. "I don't remember the water ever being this high."
The Forresters and the Parkers are at the mercy of actions being taken upsteam to help control the extreme flooding over a stretch of dozens of miles. They all say that attempts to lower the water level above Saranac Lake's dam has had a negative impact on them, but they weren't laying blame on anybody.
"The water is higher here because they opened the dam, but I think it had to be done," Bob said. "We understand that. This is affecting a lot of people."
Bob was one of the residents who were advised by St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency to leave their homes, but as of Thursday afternoon, the Forresters and Parkers had opted to stay put, at least for the time being. Jean Parker did evacuate her home Wednesday evening, but her husband remained at their residence.
"I think we will be OK," Fred said. "All you can do is hope for the best."