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A week underwater

Water rises in Saranac Lake; Tupper Lake on guard

May 5, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER, CHRIS KNIGHT and NATHAN BROWN - Staff Writers , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Officials in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake continue to monitor the levels in local waterways and deal with flooding. Both communities remain under states of emergency today.

Meanwhile, state and federal emergency management officials will inspect flood damage in Essex County.


Article Photos

Raquette Pond floods Tupper Lake’s Demars Boulevard and Municipal Park Sunday morning, as seen from a helicopter. In the background, the Grandstand and baseball field are seen inside the circular fencing. The area behind the bushes to the upper right is the playground. In the center of the photo, the gazebo and restroom building are shown. In the bottom left corner, the pavillion is shown.
(Photo courtesy of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department)

Tupper Lake

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is scheduled to visit Tupper Lake at noon today to see flood damage.

Tupper Lake village and town Emergency Manager Carl Steffen said this morning that water levels seem to be remaining steady from Wednesday, "which is good news, because with that rain, the longer we can go without it cresting higher and going back up, the better we're going to be."

Fact Box

The Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and local pilot Lutz Goesser provided the Enterprise with many aerial photos of flooding in and around Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. The Enterprise is publishing photos from the Tupper Lake area today and will publish photos from the Saranac Lake area later this week.

The job now is to continue maintaining water levels, he said.

They're also looking to see if there are any roads they can reopen yet. Demars Boulevard remains closed from Pleasant to Santa Clara avenues, as do parts of River Road, Water Street and Raquette River Drive. Flood levels on state Route 3/30 near the Crusher boat launch have remained low enough that two lanes of traffic are open.

Steffen said all the dams are flowing normally, and rumors floating around about cracks in the dams are, so far, unsubstantiated.

"Brookfield (the power company that controls the Piercefield and Setting Pole dams) I'm sure would be notifying us if there was," Steffen said.

Steffen asked that people contact the local command post if they hear a rumor to find out whether it's true rather than spreading it around.

The command post can be reached at 359-3341 during regular business hours and by calling 911 during off-hours.

He reminded people not to go into flooded areas.

Officials in Tupper Lake are notifying people who have evacuated their homes not to return to them until the buildings are inspected.

Houses may need electrical inspections, depending on how damaged they are. People should contact their local code enforcement officer, Pete Edwards inside the village and Paul O'Leary outside the village, to find out if this is necessary and for a list of electrical inspectors. Municipal electric crews won't reinstall electric meters on buildings until all requirements are met by code enforcement.

Heat and hot water should also be reinstated before moving back in. In most cases, a qualified technician will be required to clean, inspect and approve the system.

Then code enforcement has to do a final inspection, checking documentation from all the necessary inspections.

"We appreciate your patience; we cannot predict how long it will take for the water to recede to safe levels," code enforcement officials said in a press release. "It may take some time before all structures can be reoccupied."

Assessment teams are expected in Tupper Lake today to start adding up the costs of flood damage, Steffen said. Local officials haven't ventured a guess so far.


Saranac Lake

The water level in Lake Flower at the village dam was back up this morning, fueled by more rain and water let out upstream at the DEC's locks on the Saranac River.

The water had dropped below the level of the Main Street bridge on Monday after a sunny and rain-free weekend. But this morning, after a two-day drenching of rain, the water was hitting the bridge again, according to village Police Chief Bruce Nason.

The level in the river below the dam has also gone up in the past 24 hours. As seen from the Broadway bridge this morning, the water had inched back up near the bottom of the windows in the dining area of the former Dew Drop Inn, as high as it got at its previous peak.

Main Street between Kiwassa Road and River Street was closed to vehicle traffic this morning, although pedestrians were still being allowed to cross the lake side of the Main Street bridge. Dorsey Street was still closed to vehicles, and the end of Pelkey Lane remained closed to both vehicles and pedestrians.


Damage tour

State and federal disaster management officials will tour Essex County today to view flood damage. Thirteen of the county's 18 towns declared states of emergency over the past week, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay.

Estimates of damage to town- and county-owned property have risen to between $12 million and $13 million, Douglas said. This doesn't count extensive private-property damage throughout the county. Douglas said people should document all damage in case federal aid becomes available to help private property owners.

There needs to be $25 million in damage to public property statewide to declare New York a federal disaster aid, making it eligible for federal help. Douglas said he has been in frequent contact with U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, about this.

"He's going to be the point person to get the ear of the president once we've compiled all our damages," Douglas said.



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