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Spring Snowmelt Brings Minor Flooding To Region

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Spring flooding has been occurring across the North Country this week as snowmelt runs into the region’s rivers and then flows into Lake Champlain. But most waters have receded and damage, if any, has been minor.

After the record flooding of Lake Champlain in 2011 followed by Tropical Storm Irene mere months later, some people remain wary of springtime runoff into rivers, lakes and streams. This year, flooding from rivers and streams has been minor. Clinton County Assistant Director of Emergency Services Kelly C. Donoghue says the only current trouble spot is in the town of Saranac. “We’ve been very fortunate. The normal flooding spots for the county have occurred. We’ve had a few roads where there have been closures. Unfortunately we did have one road where the culvert washed out. So unfortunately Bull Run Road is closed until further notice. Because the water is still high and running strong, they’re not able to fix that yet.”

Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Spokesman Mark Bosma says most river flooding there has been minor.  “For the most part the damage was to basement and low-lying roads and the like. We’re not hearing of widespread damage. There are certainly areas that roads had water on them for an extended period and now we have some washed out culverts and road damage.”  

Essex County Director of Emergency Services Don Jaquist reports only minor road flooding at the Schroon River at Riverbank. He said similar flooding had occurred along the Ausable River earlier this week.  Lake Champlain, he added, was causing only minor shoreline flooding.

The rivers flow into Lake Champlain which is now rising above its flood stage of 100 feet. Its level was at 100.42 feet at the Rouses Point gauge and 100.41 feet at the King Street Ferry Dock in Burlington at 2:00 p.m. Friday. Mark Bosma says only minor flooding is expected.  “There’s some shoreline flooding, which is not so much a major hazard as it is an annoyance for people who own property there.  We’re generally advising people who live along the lake as the water goes up to move anything out of the way that could be swept away because not only will you lose your belongings,  but anything that gets swept away could create a hazard for boaters or it could pose an environmental hazard.”

Kelly Donoghue says while most danger has passed, there is still some snow in the mountains, and remains vigilant.  “We are still having  melt in the mountains. We still have some potential of flooding. But at this time we’re doing  pretty well.”

As the ground begins to dry the next concern is brush fires.  The National Weather Service in Burlington has designated next week as Open Burning Awareness Week. Even though the ground may appear saturated, Meteorologist Andy Nash says there is a fire danger.  “What dries out is the leaf litter on top of the ground. In the fall when all the leaves come down off trees they get packed by the snow. When that snow melts, the dead leaves dry out very quickly. So even if the ground underneath it is still fairly wet, any burning that you do can spread fairly quickly. And so this is the time of the year that brush fires happen.”

New York State law automatically imposes an open burn ban from March 16 through May 14 due to an increased risk of wildfires.

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