Rain Tuesday and today may bring water levels back up in local lakes and rivers, but officials in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake say they don't expect the flooding to get any worse than it was last week and over the weekend.
Teachers, students, local business owners, village trustees and other community members help out with the sandbagging effort at the village sand shed on Van Buren Street on Thursday. From left are Bill Decker, Tom Jones, Brad Parker, Adam Heverly, Rick Schmidt, Ty Rondeau, Sam Baker, Adam Branch, Jeff Branch and Sue Abbott-Jones.
Emergency officials in Tupper Lake expect to see a rise in water levels soon. Chad Niles, an emergency management specialist with the state police, said this morning that water levels in Tupper Lake were keeping steady for now, but "we're anticipating a possible rise throughout the day and into tomorrow.
"At this point, things are kind of status quo," Niles said.
They don't expect flooding to inundate any area that hasn't already been affected, so there's not much to do in the meantime but wait and see, he said.
Flooding has been slow to hit the Tupper Lake area compared with areas on the AuSable and Saranac rivers because the drainage area on the Raquette River is spread out over a wide area, Niles said. Runoff from the AuSable gets into the rivers almost immediately, but it's a more slow, cumulative effect in the Raquette.
"So really, any kind of rain effect, we're not going to see things change here for at least a day," Niles said. "Maybe we'll see some rises this afternoon or in the morning."
He said they're keeping an eye on the section of state Route 3/30 near the Crusher boat launch site that was closed to one lane of traffic on Friday and over the weekend. He said that area is a good indicator that other flood water in Tupper Lake will start to rise.
At about 8 a.m. today, he said the water in that area was completely off the pavement.
"So far so good with that, but we're going to monitor that closely," Niles said.
There is an emergency shelter available at the former Holy Ghost Academy, but so far it hasn't been needed, Niles said. Owners of the Timber Lodge hotel, the Dew family, have donated rooms to anyone who needs a place to stay.
"They've been very gracious up there and offered their rooms at no cost to people that are affected," Niles said. "That was a tremendous help for us."
Anyone who needs shelter, sandbags or other help should call the command post set up at the village offices at 359-3341.
The water level at the Lake Flower dam has gone up, but village officials say things are still stable.
Village Manager John Sweeney said this morning that the combination of additional rainfall and the state Department of Environmental Conservation releasing more water from the lower locks on the Saranac River pushed the water level at the dam up an inch to an inch-and-a-half in the past 24 hours. Sweeney said the water level at the dam remains below the bottom of the Main Street bridge, at roughly 22 to 23 inches over the dam's spillway, down from a high of 38 inches on Friday.
"Fortunately we didn't see anything major let loose last night," Sweeney said. "My concern is the feeder systems are coming up, so there may be an effect there. Kurung Pond, McKenzie Pond Outlet, Brandy Brook - those areas are starting to move.
"I'm not so concerned about the level of the lake. We're holding. We're still stable. The river did come up, but it's still within its banks and the areas that are sandbagged."
Sweeney said his focus is to get the Main Street bridge reopened. It's been closed for nearly a week. Barton and Loguidice, Franklin County's bridge engineering firm, is supposed to be here today to inspect that and the other county-owned bridges in the village, Sweeney said.
Village officials said this morning that they've had to close the end of Pelkey Lane, where it intersects with LaPan Highway, to pedestrians and vehicles again because of further erosion to a retaining wall below the road. To give people a way to get across the river in that area, village Police Chief Bruce Nason said this morning that the sidewalk on the lake side of the Main Street bridge has reopened to pedestrians.
The village has also allowed people to reoccupy five of the 47 homes, apartment buildings or businesses that were evacuated due to flooding, Sweeney said.
Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said he didn't think the additional rain in the forecast today would bring the flood waters back to where they had crested last week, "especially in Saranac Lake."
"In Tupper Lake, we're only down 4 or 5 inches from crest, so there's a potential that could come back up to the high-water mark," Provost said. "But I think Saranac Lake village has done a tremendous job this week getting rid of some water off of Lake Flower. I think we've got a pretty good chance to keep that down."