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A flooded home in Keeseville on the bank of the Ausable River. Brian Mann photo.
A flooded home in Keeseville on the bank of the Ausable River. Brian Mann photo.

Surging rivers threaten homes, businesses

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Floodwaters across the North Country continued to surge yesterday, as rivers were swollen by more pounding rain and by warm temperatures that melted snow in the Adirondacks.

Roughly four inches of rain fell in the region over the last several days.

We've seen spring flooding before, of course, but this year it's not just one town or one river valley.

From the Hudson and the Schroon Rivers in the south to the Raquette and the Saranac Rivers in the north, communities are scrambling to protect their homes and businesses.

Transportation was snarled across the region as dozens of highways were closed. A record high level of water on Lake Champlain flooded the ferry dock at Essex, shutting down service to Charlotte, Vermont.

Dozens of roads across Essex County remain closed this morning. The hardest hit area is in the Lake Champlain town of Moriah where two bridges collapsed and many of the road washouts occurred. Officials say the town sustained more than $1.5 million in damage. (We'll have more on the flooding in Moriah Monday morning.)

Essex County officials say the preliminary estimate of damage to roads and bridges is about $2 million. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected in Port Henry at midday to meet with emergency officials and brief the press.

In Saranac Lake yesterday, Lake Flower and the Saranac River rose even higher, forcing some evacuations. As Chris Knight reports, officials say it's too early to know when flood waters will recede.

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Sandbags along the Saranac River in the parking lot behind the buildings on Main Street. Mark Kurtz photo.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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At a press conference Thursday night at the Saranac Lake firehouse, Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said the water level in Lake Flower and the Saranac River continues to climb.

“We don’t have a lot of good news on the elevation of the water,” he said. “The water continues to rise. Since six o’clock this morning we’ve risen approximately 4 or 5 inches at the Lake Flower bridge.”

For business owners and residents on Lake Flower, the flooding problems went from bad to worse on Thursday. At Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn, two of the motel’s rooms were under several inches of water on Wednesday. By mid-morning Thursday, 10 rooms had been affected.

At Swiss Marine, a crew of DEC workers and marina employees were putting sandbags around the marina's shop. Tom Gannon works at the marina.

"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."

Village officials would like to release more water at the Lake Flower dam, to protect a bridge that crosses it, but the’re concerned about causing more erosion to a peninsula behind the dam where there's a village water main.

“We’d definitely like to have the impoundment area lowered by now,” Provost said. “Unfortunately it hasn’t happened and we’ve gone the other direction. We’re kind of at wit’s end with getting rid of the water.”

Downstream, the Saranac River was showing no signs of letting up last night either as it moved further into parking lots, stores and basements of buildings along the river. Police and firefighters had evacauted people from at least three apartment buildings.

Clyde Rabideau is Saranac Lake’s Mayor.

“I believe there are hundreds of basements that are flooded and have damaged goods inside those basements, but as far as structural damage is very limited here in the village at present. But we’ll have to wait and see and assess the damages in total after the water subsides. “

Despite the state of emergency, Rabideau said there were no plans to cancel the village’s first-ever daffodil festival, dubbed Daffest, which is scheduled to kick off today.

“The show will go in Saranac Lake because that is part of our indomitable spirit,” Rabideau said. “If we have to jump off a parade float and go fill up sandbags and throw them in a place where there’s some flooding, we’ll do that. But we’re going to go on.”

State emergency management officials were expected to visit the village this morning to assess the situation.

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