SARANAC LAKE - Fueled by more rain overnight and this morning, the already swollen Lake Flower continued to rise today, flooding homes, businesses and roads above the village dam.
As the state of emergency in the village entered its second day, the surging Saranac River also continued to cause flooding problems downstream, where it overwhelmed part of the village's wastewater treatment plant. Sewer plant operator Kevin Pratt said the facility's primary clarifier had to be shut down.
"It's the wash tanks before the effluent goes out to the river - they're flooded," he said. "They can't discharge into the river because the river is too high. The plant is still in operation and we still have primary and secondary treatment, but it's probably going to be a violation of DEC regulations because there's suspended solids going out to the river."
A group of state Department of Environmental Conservation workers and employees of Swiss Marine place sandbags along the back of the marina’s shop Thursday morning.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The rate of stormwater and sewer flows into the plant today adds up to 5.7 million gallons per day, Pratt said. The normal flow is 1.7 million gallons per day.
Meanwhile, "We have hundreds and hundreds of flooded basements," said village Mayor Clyde Rabideau. "A lot of the basements had goods in them, so there's damage there. As far as structural damage to houses, I'm not aware of any right now, though water damage is just as costly."
As he spoke with the Enterprise, Rabideau was inspecting damage caused by the rising lake level on Duprey Street.
"It's up over the foundation on one of the houses," he said. "We're going to shut off power to a couple houses here. It's flooding houses on Duprey Street, and that means it's very close to the level of Route 86, Lake Flower Avenue."
One house on Duprey Street was almost completely surrounded by water. It is owned by Mary Beth Wigger of Maryland, according to her mother Lena, who lives across the street.
Lena said this isn't the first time the lake has risen up around that house, which she and her husband Bill used to live in. She found a 1971 article from the Enterprise that shows a picture of her husband standing in the water next to the house, surrounded by water.
"Since then, this is the first time it's gotten that high," Lena said. "I called my daughter and they're going to try to come up this weekend, but there's not much they can do."
Down the street, a crew of state Department of Environmental Conservation workers was working with employees of Swiss Marine to put sandbags around the marina's shop. Pumps were also being used to empty water from parts of the building that had already been inundated.
"We're just trying to keep the water out of the shop as best as we can," said Tom Gannon, who works at the marina. "It's going to flood, but as long as we can try to keep some of the stuff dry."
The water on the lake also rose at Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn, where two of the motel's rooms had water damage Wednesday.
"Now it's nine rooms and a finished basement on another building that are under a couple inches of water," co-owner Doug Brownell said this morning as he put more sandbags in front of the motel. "We didn't think yesterday we'd have to do this far. I don't think anybody was ready for it."
At Fogarty's Lake Flower Marina, the water had reached halfway into the parking lot, full of boats on trailers, and swamped the marina's shop.
"It can't go too much higher or I won't be too happy about it," owner Terence Fogarty said. "The shop's got probably 8 inches of water in the back; now it's almost into our store. We sandbagged the doors. Everything's up off the floor here, but we're watching it. I don't think we'll suffer too much damage, but that depends on how high it goes up."
Fogarty said he's been offered more sandbags, but the water's coming through the floor.
"I don't know what good sandbags are going to do now," he said.
There was at least an inch of standing water in the road at the intersection of River Street, Lake Flower Avenue and Brandy Brook Avenue this morning. Rabideau joined a crew of firefighters and DEC workers that was putting down a line of sandbags across nearby Slater Avenue and through the parking lot of NBT Bank, which closed due to the flooding.
Rabideau said the water from Pontiac Bay in Lake Flower could crest over the road today, though he wasn't sure if there would be any road closures.
The village issued a press release at 1:15 p.m. saying "there is potential for sudden, severe flooding along the Saranac River and residents along the river should be prepared to evacuate to the Methodist Church at 63 Church Street for shelter.
"There are several roads in the area that are either closed or reduced to one lane of traffic. Please use caution when traveling these areas. If you encounter water crossing a road, please turn around, do not cross moving water."
Pratt told the Enterprise around 11:30 a.m. that the floodgates on the dam at Lake Flower hadn't been opened any wider since this morning, though recent emergency radio traffic indicated the gates might be opened more at some point. Village officials are being cautious because portions of a peninsula at the foot of the dam have eroded. The peninsula is crossed by a water main that feeds the village water tank.
Dozens of village, town and county workers, firefighters, DEC employees and volunteers have been working to keep the flood waters at bay, many of them in sandbagging crews that have fanned out across the village. DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell said the department had planned a training session for a large group of seasonal workers today; instead, they were sent out to help mitigate the flooding.
"I'm very impressed by this effort," Rabideau said. "There's a lot of different governmental agencies involved, but everybody's working together and it's very coordinated. It's a tremendous testament to the greater community."
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.