LATEST NEWS: Flood recovery for Lake Ontario, Montreal, Ottawa

Originally published on May 23, 2017 9:35 am

Updated Tuesday, May 23, at 9 a.m.

New York State is offering millions of dollars in flood aid along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said $10 million will be available to localities that need help to repair roads, sewers, flood walls and other infrastructure.

State Sen. Robert Ortt, whose district includes the shorelines of Niagara and Orleans Counties, welcomed the governor's announcement and said lawmakers were set to act this week on a bill providing help to private property owners.

"This bill would set aside relief funding for private property owners, small businesses, farms as well as not-for-profits who are impacted by these lake levels, who suffered damage and who otherwise are not covered under FEMA, state emergency relief funding or their insurance," Ortt told WBFO.

The new Great Lakes Flood Recovery Grant Program would make $55 million available to those affected by flooding along Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

The grant program would provide up to $20 million administered through the state’s Empire State Development Corporation to help with physical flood-related damage.

Grants would provide up to $15,500 for owners of residences, $30,000 for owners of multiple dwellings, $50,000 for small businesses and farms, and $100,000 for not-for-profit corporations for damage not covered under insurance or an existing local, state, or federal program. 

Municipalities and special districts would be eligible for a total of $20 million in grants -- up to $1 million each -- for infrastructure costs not already covered under existing programs. Counties would be eligible for a total of $5 million in new grants for flood mitigation or flood control projects.

Although heavy rains have passed, Ortt says winds continue to stir up waves in spots. He told WBFO there are many areas of concern in his district, with more serious problems in Orleans County and to the east. 

Ortt expects the negative economic impact to be felt for some time. He pointed to the example of Olcott Beach, and the recent decision by operators to cancel swimming for the entire season due to flood damage. 

"The problem is without the beach being opened, a lot of recreational fishing and recreational draw that the beach is, to the Town of Olcott and to that part of Niagara County, those shops and those restaurants are probably going to see a decline," he said.

Meanwhile, Montreal and Ottawa are also providing financial advice for residents affected by the flooding. Cleanup efforts continue in those cities, with extra trash removal schedules and special sandbag collections.

Wednesday, May 17 

Finally, some good news for towns that been flooded for weeks by high waters in Lake Ontario.

The lake-wide average water level has remained at 75.85 m for two days in a row, says the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which controls a huge dam downstream.

Here's the bi-national board's assessment: "Does this mean we've reached its peak? Likely not, but we appear to be close now. If no significant rainfall is received, it now appears that it may rise perhaps another centimetre or two, but should then start to soon decline slowly."

The board cautioned that lake levels will remain high for weeks: "It's very important to note that another big rainfall could bring an even higher peak in days or even weeks to come. But the good news is that it appears to be close to its initial peak."

So far, the weather is cooperating. The region may see some thunderstorms Wednesday and Sunday,  the National Weather Service says. But there's no sign of the heavy, extended rains that swelled the lake in April and early May.

As the region continues to deal with flooding, one community on the lake's southern shore is calling for legal action.

Officials in hard-hit Sodus Point want to halt a new bi-national lake management plan, saying it has harmed residents and businesses, the Finger Lakes Times reported.

Monday night, the village board asked Wayne County to seek an injunction against Plan 2014, which many residents and officials blame for the flooding. A board resolution called for “an injunction against the continued implementation of Plan 2014” and that the International Joint Commission revert to the previous lake management plan.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the flooding has been caused by heavy spring rains. The IJC, a bi-national organization, says the plan that took effect in January may have added only an inch or two to the lake level. 

Tuesday, May 16

A huge hydroelectric dam that regulates the level of Lake Ontario continues to increase outflows.

But officials don't expect the lake to drop below flood levels for some time.

"At this time, the supplies into Lake Ontario, that being the flow from Lake Erie and the tributary rivers into Lake Ontario, currently exceed our ability to pass those flows through the Moses-Saunders dam," Rob Campany of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board of Control told North Country Public Radio. 

Tuesday afternoon, the board authorized another increase in outflows from the Moses-Saunders dam, which sits east of the lake on the St. Lawrence River. The new outflow rate -- 8,900 cubic meters per second -- represents a 44 percent increase since May 8.  

Once flood waters recede in the U.S. and Canada, the region could face a new problem: a bumper crop of mosquitos.

Standing water left over from the spring rains and flooding will be a perfect breeding ground, experts say.

"Mosquitoes need standing pools of water. If you have a very moist spring like this you'll have a good crop," Jeff Dawson, associate professor of biology at Carleton University, told the CBC.

In New York, the Erie County health department also has issued warnings about the problem. A small bottle cap of water can result in hundreds of mosquitos, the agency said.

It asked residents to remove pools of water by filling holes, clearing gutters and draining water from pool covers, garden pots and kiddie pools.

The agency also said it was concerned about swimming pools at homes that are vacant due to foreclosure. It asked residents to the county division of environmental heath by calling 716.961.6800.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deploying technical teams Tuesday in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties in northern New York, Mexico Point in Oswego County on the eastern shore of the lake and at Fair Haven State Park in Wayne County on the south shore.

The teams will provide advice while coordinating with local emergency management offices, WXXI reported. They'll also inspect flood protection projects to identify potential problems and recommend solutions.

Flooding has affected hundreds of properties since early March, and levels on Lake Ontario are not expected to crest until early June.

Monday, May 15

Officials continue to lower the level of Lake Ontario, a move designed to alleviate the flooding threat that stretches through May.

Outflows from the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam on the upper St. Lawrence River were increased at midnight and again at noon. Monday's changes mean that outflows have jumped by 37 percent over the past week.

The new rate is 8,500 cubic meters per second -- up from 6,200 cubic meters per second on May 8.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said the changes were made as the flow of the Ottawa River decreased. That river, combined with the St. Lawrence, brought flood waters to Montreal. 

Along the southern shore of the lake, local officials are still worried.

"I have been in and around the town of Penfield for 42 years and I have to tell you, I have never seen it this high," Penfield town supervisor Tony LaFountain told WXXI.

A state of emergency is in effect in the towns of Irondequoit, Penfield, and Webster due to concerns about potential flooding on Empire Boulevard along Irondequoit Bay. Businesses in the area have flooded parking lots.

Meanwhile, residents of hard-hit neighborhoods are assessing damage to their homes now that most of the flood waters have receded and roads have reopened.

Officials in Montreal and Ottawa warned residents to be careful in returning to homes in flooded areas. Damaged heating and electrical systems could be dangerous, officials said.

"Electrocution is a serious risk when entering flood-damaged areas," the city of Ottawa cautions on its website. "Do not enter your basement if you know or suspect that water has risen above the level of electrical outlets, baseboard heaters and furnace, or is near your electrical panel."

Officials also warned residents to check for mold, and to assess damage to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

In the Pierrefonds community of Montreal, homeowners were tossing out waterlogged belongings and ripping out damaged sections of their homes, CTV reported. The province's emergency management department said nearly 3,900 people had been evacuated from their homes, and more that 4,500 homes were damaged by the flooding. 

And in Gatineau, near Ottawa, local officials scheduled special pickups for flood-damaged household goods -- and for sandbags.

Little rain is forecast for the region this week.

But Lake Ontario could continue to rise, as it absorbs waters from tributaries and the other Great Lakes.

A shoreline flooding warning was in effect until mid-afternoon for some communities on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The National Weather Service said that in Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego counties, a combination of high lake levels, brisk northwest winds and high waves could lead to flooding and shoreline erosion.

  

Friday, May 12 

Communities in areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Rochester New York, can expect a few more rain drops over the weekend.

The National Weather Service is calling for a 70 percent chance of rain showers on Saturday, followed by a 60 percent chance of showers on Sunday. The sun will be breaking through on Monday and Tuesday with partly sunny conditions and temperatures near 72 on Tuesday.

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul continues her tour of the damaged areas along the Lake Ontario shorelines. She's scheduled  to stop in Olcott Friday afternoon. That area was hit hard by recent rains and flooding.

According to the National Weather Service, Olcott and the surrounding area along the Lake Ontario shoreline, is expected to be mostly cloudy today with a chance of showers this evening. The weekend weather features rain before 10 a.m. with new precipitation amounting to less than a tenth of an inch. There's a chance of showers Sunday, with less than a tenth of an inch of rain expected.

For the coming week Monday through Wednesday, sun and clouds is expected. No rain until Thursday.

On the other side of the border, the Environment Canada is calling for sun today in Montreal, with a chance of showers Saturday and Sunday. Monday sun, Tuesday Sun and a chance of showers on Wednesday and Thursday. In Quebec, the Environment Canada is calling for sunny conditions today, with a chance of showers Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Thursday, May 11

​New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul warned Thursday that flooding along Lake Ontario is far from over, as waters flow in from the upper Great Lakes and tributaries.

On a tour of lakefront towns, she met with first responders and sought to reassure owners of flooded properties. In the town of Sodus, she said the state is assisting homeowners who need to submit insurance claims. "People on the ground need our help," she said.  

Outflows from a swollen Lake Ontario continue to increase, according to the international board that controls a downstream dam. The latest change means dam outflows have increased by 20 percent since Monday.

Still, flooding along the shore could continue through the rest of May, as the lake continues to rise, officials in the U.S. and Canada say.

“You’ve got more water coming in than can get out, it’s very simple and there’s no where to go but up," Terry Murphy, general manager of Quinte Conservation in Canada, told CKSW-TV. "So the problem is by the time all that water recedes we could be in the middle of June or July before we’re even close to normal.”

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which regulates the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam, said outflows will increase today to 7,400 cubic meters per second. Still, the lake will continue rising due to Lake Erie outflows, rain and runoff, it said.

The board also said the Lake Ontario region has had six inches of rain since April. The Ottawa River basin has had 10 inches.

That doubles or triples the normal amount of rain in those areas, the board said. 

Basil Seggos, who heads the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation, said the lake level is expected to rise for at least two more weeks, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported. It already has risen more than nine inches in May.

Meanwhile, flooding is spreading further east along the St. Lawrence River, as areas near Trois-Rivières deal with high waters.

The HMCS Montreal arrived in the city's port around 7 a.m., and its commander said the crew of 160 sailors will help local authorities with chores  such as sandbagging, the CBC reported. The frigate was diverted from Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations. 

In Ottawa, meanwhile, officials are dealing with an outpouring of frustration among residents. Community meetings overflowed local auditoriums, and some residents complained that flood aid was insufficient, according to the CBC.

Environment Canada's forecast calls for cloudy weather in Montreal over the next few days, with rain on Sunday.

Along the southern shoreline of Lake Ontario, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared four-person response teams that included hydraulic and hydrology engineers, as well as coastal engineers. The teams will help local and state authorities respond to the flooding.

New York lawmakers gathered in a flooded area near Rochester to announce legislation that would expedite emergency funding for counties and towns dealing with water infrastructure issues.  The measure has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly.

State Sen. Pam Helming, who co-sponsored the bill, said, "Under the current budget language, this emergency funding is not available for 120 days after the governor signs the budget.  That would take us to August 18th.  The legislation that I sponsored in the Senate, and Leader [Joseph] Morelle is carrying in the Assembly, will remove this waiting period."

The National Weather Service forecast for the New York lakeshore calls for rain or a chance of showers Friday through Sunday.

Wednesday, May 10

With several more days of rain in the forecast, more Canadian troops are heading to Quebec province to help communities. By the end of the day, about 2,300 troops will be stationed there, officials told the Montreal Gazette.

The damage toll across the province was grim: 126 landslides, 3,882 homes and businesses damaged, 2,721 persons evacuated from homes and 557 roads flooded, according to the public security minister.

In Ottawa, the city was passing out free water testing kits, so residents could determine whether well water was contaminated. The city also delayed the opening of sports fields until May 22. 

Soaked communities along Lake Ontario and in Montreal are headed for several more days of rain -- and a very soggy weekend.

Along the lake, showers could start Thursday night, and rain will stay in the forecast through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. In Montreal, which has been hit even harder by flooding, Environment Canada is calling for showers Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Officials in charge of a hydroelectric dam that regulates lake levels have begun increasing outflows -- with the latest change coming Thursday at 9:01 a.m.

Still, heavy spring rains have swelled Lake Ontario to its highest level since the 1950s, when the dam was built.

The National Guard was helping communities along the southern shore -- an unprecedented situation, according to spokesperson Col. Richard Goldenberg.

"Certainly there has been a number of other opportunities where heavy snows have impeded local community response and there have been times where spring floods have been resulting in challenges for local response authorities, but this is the first time that we have ever turned our eyes to Lake Ontario that I can recall," Goldenberg told WRVO

Recovery efforts continue after more than a week of heavy rain and flooding hit Montreal and surrounding areas. In Montreal, a state of emergency remains in effect for Ahuntsic-Cartierville, L'Ile Bizard-Sainte Genevieve, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Sainte Anne de Bellevue and Senneville.  

Tuesday, May 9

New York is sending a mobile financial command center to towns along Lake Ontario, so residents affected by flooding can get help with insurance.

"Water levels are continuing to rise, threatening homes and businesses in the Lake Ontario region," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the Department of Financial Services command center will be at the town of Greece's Department of Public Works, 647 Long Pond Rd., from 1 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Thursday it will move to the town of Kent's County Marine Park on Point Breeze Rd., from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Friday, it will be at the Olcott Fire Company, 1691 Lockport-Olcott Rd., from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, more water is starting to flow out of Lake Ontario, as operations at a downstream dam are adjusted.

The International Lake Ontario-St.Lawrence River Board said it increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders dam by 200 cubic meters per second, starting at 4:01 p.m. 

The board made a similar increase in outflows on Monday on the dam that straddles the St. Lawrence River, downstream from Lake Ontario. 

But those changes will not dramatically lower lake levels, and flooding could continue for weeks.

The high waters along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River forced the U.S. customs agency to suspend a reporting program for recreational boaters.

The system has 17 videophones stationed near boundary waters, including Erie Basin in Buffalo and the Rochester City Dock.

Recreational boaters use the system to report when they cross the border from Canada.

But many of the phones are inaccessible, so the system is being suspended for safety reasons, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. Until the system is restored, boaters must call 1-800-827-2851 to report a border crossing.

High waters on the Ottawa River have crested, officials said Tuesday morning, giving that area a reprieve from the flooding that forced evacuations and closed government offices.

But the change in water level was a mere centimeter in some areas, according to the Ottawa River Planning Regulation Board.

And the river's still raging.

As it approaches Montreal, another city hit hard by flooding, the outflow is still 50 percent higher than it was just a week ago. 

By early Tuesday, 243 homes had been evacuated in Montreal, according to the mayor's office.

Heavy rains appear to have eased. But the Environment Canada weather forecast calls for a chance of showers throughout most of the week.

Along Lake Ontario, the New York village of Fair Haven got some unexpected aid -- from inmates from the Cayuga County Jail. They helped fill some 20,000 sandbags, WRVO reported.

"That takes sometimes anywhere between six, eight, up to 10 people," ​Mayor James Basile said. "That would have just strained our volunteers even more ... ."

Monday, May 8

Montreal continued to operate under a state of emergency, with rain in the forecast throughout the week. But in Ottawa, officials said flood waters that shut down local government offices should slowly recede, unless another storm materializes.

Communities along Lake Ontario got a bit of good news: The dam that controls the lake's water levels started to let more water out.

Lake St. Louis near Montreal was subsiding, allowing more water to be released downstream, the International Lake Ontario--St. Lawrence River Board said.

Unfortunately, according to Jacob Bruxer with the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence regulation office in Canada, it's unlikely residents along the south shore will experience immediate relief.

"This is a very small increase," Bruxer said by phone interview. "It takes a lot of water and a lot of outflow to make a significant difference on Lake Ontario."

Bruxer says this small increase would take a week to reduce the lake's level by about a quarter of an inch.

But further gradual increase in Lake Ontario's outflow are expected to continue as high waters on the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers subside, the board said.

On Sunday, Lake Ontario was at its highest level since regulation began in the late 1950s. The previous high mark was set in 1973, officials said.

About 240 residents have been evacuated across Montreal, according to the mayor's office. The communities hit hardest were Ahuntsic–Cartierville; L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève; Pierrefonds-Roxboro; Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue; and Senneville.

Camille Delpech, whose family was evacuated by firefighters in the middle of the night, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., "We were just bombarded with the water. You know, I saw the fire trucks three days before and I was wondering what was happening but I didn't know it was going to get that serious. It was really, really traumatic for us."

The mayor's office also warned that water from individual wells may not potable, and advised that residents boil it before drinking it.  Water from the municipal system remains safe to drink, even in flooded areas.

Further west, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, residents were working to keep water from entering their basements. Many used sandbags stored at community centers.

"This is our 5th trip here this morning and we've gotten like 250 sand bags," Kim Unger, who was helping her sister on Long Pond, told WXXI.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo said that this is Rochester's second-wettest Spring in 147 years of record-keeping. The year 1873 was the wettest Spring through May 6th.

Compared to last year, Rochester so far this Spring has had three times the amount of precipitation.

In western New York, areas that have been hit hard by rain are expected to get a break this week. The National Weather Service is calling for a bit more sun, along with scattered showers late Monday. It will be partly sunny for the rest of the week.

Olcott Fire Chief Stephen Miller said he remains concerned because levels are expected to rise for several more weeks.

"My goal right now is just trying to pre-plan, keep the water out as long as we can, keep people in their homes and keep them safe," Miller told WBFO. "We're going to try to do it as long as we can and hopefully we can get past it, the June deadline, kind of when the lake peaks and kind of be a win for us. But it's not a win truthfully, but we're just trying."

Friday, May 5

Flooding conditions persist in areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline and in areas of Canada as well. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the issue during a stop in Montreal today. For more on his visit click here.

Communities along Lake Ontario are bracing for a weekend of road closures, flooding and other problems caused by days of steady rain.

In Parma, N.Y., town supervisor James Smith told WXXI that "if it's anything like last Sunday or worse, it's gonna be a huge problem. A lot of our residents are putting the sandbags literally around their houses because the water comes over the breakwall sometimes in five or six foot waves and it just runs right across their property." 

Rains continue to beat down on communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline, and more flooding is forecast.

A hazardous weather outlook is still in effect from the National Weather Service, calling for more rain shows straight through the weekend. About two inches of rain is expected.

The hazardous weather advisory is for communities in Jefferson, Lewis, northern Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario and Allegheny counties.

There's also a lakeshore flood warning in Rochester that's expected to last through 2 a.m. Saturday.

The heavy rains and high waters led Niagara Co. officials to restrict public access to two popular parks.

A bank slide along Lake Ontario at Krull Park led the parks department to seal off access with snow-fence barriers, according to Commissioner of Public Works Garret A. Meal. Signs barring access also have been posted along a hiking trail at the Royalton Ravine park, after erosion damaged a staircase.

In Toronto, officials warned that sections of the Don River Parkway could close in mid-afternoon, before  rush hour.

"Crews are monitoring for excessive ponding and flooding and proactively patrolling low-lying areas that have been susceptible to flooding in the past such as the Don Valley Parkway, the Eastern and Western Beaches, areas south of Queen Street, Hoggs Hollow and the Bayview Extension," the city said in a news release. 

In Montreal, rains are expected to last for the next several days. Environment Canada upgraded its weather warning to a rainfall warning at around 4 a.m.

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre tweeted that by 7 a.m., 450 homes in flood-prone areas had been visited by emergency officials, 100 homes had been damaged and 65 homes had been evacuated.

According to The Globe and Mail, 1,400 residents in eastern Quebec have been impacted by flooding.

Heavy rain is expected to continue with accumulation of one to two inches. The forecast also calls for continued flooding, and Environment Canada advised residents to stay away from rivers, creeks and culverts. For more on Canada's flooding, click here.

 

Thursday, May 4

 

As communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River brace for several days of rain -- and more flooding -- employees of the Beaconsfield Yacht Club near Montreal are stacking sandbags to protect gas pumps.

In 18 years of working at the club on Lake St. Louis, manager David Speak says he's never seen the water this high.

Some residents were evacuated from waterfront areas such as Île Mercier and Pierrefonds. But not everyone left.

"The idea is that we'll do our best to support those people who decided to stay behind," City of Montreal spokesman Philippe Sabourin told the Montreal Gazette. "We'll regularly knock on their doors, make sure everything is alright, remind them of the safety measures they should be taking."

​Rushing waters from the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers converged on the island city. The southern end of the island, along the St. Lawrence, is elevated, so many homes sit well above the water line. But marinas have evacuated their docks and villages have built barricades to keep impending flood waters from spilling into streets.

On the northern side, particularly on the Ile Bizard, flooding is more extreme.

This side of the island is lower and neighborhoods are closer to the shoreline. Flood waters are more than two feet high in some areas and homeowners are being evacuated. Firefighters and volunteers are using small boats to move people and resources away from the flooding.

Jacob Bruxer of the International Joint Commission says Quebec is in for an historic weekend. The high water levels and flash flooding that have hit the city are projected to get worse.

 

Flooding also triggered evacuations around Ottawa. And in Toronto, officials are making emergency preparations in case the harbor islands need to be evacuated. 

 

Across the New York shoreline, where the governor has declared a state of emergency, communities are watching anxiously as rising waters threaten homes, roads and utilities.

Rain is expected to begin today at the western end of the lake, and continue through the weekend.

For example, the National Weather Service forecast for the Buffalo area has a grim sameness:  Thursday, rain; Friday, rain; Saturday, showers; Sunday, showers.

Over that period, the already soaked region could see several inches of rain, the weather service said.

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told WBFO that the state was ready to help localities hit by floods.

"We actually have more help arriving on the ground as we speak ... " she said. "We are continuing to monitor by the moment, to make sure that local communities have all the assistance they need from the state of New York."

Wednesday, May 3

After a brief respite Wednesday, communities along Lake Ontario are likely to see more rain over the next couple of days. And that has sparked concerns about continued flooding.

At Old Fort Niagara on the lake's southwest corner, officials worry about erosion. Some trees have fallen down an embankment and waves are hammering a protective seawall.  

"It’s erosion, but the term 'erosion' sort of implies a gradual process. This was sudden," Executive Director Robert Emerson said about the embankment.

Emerson is concerned about protecting the New York fort's historic structures, especially one know as the French Castle.

"It was built by the French in the 1726," he said. "It’s an architectural gem. Generations of people have come here and we don’t want to be the ones to lose it. It needs to last centuries longer, it needs to last."

The Great Lakes, already swollen by heavy rain and melting snow, will continue to rise, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

All of the Great Lakes were above average levels for April -- and are expected to continue rising in May, the Corps says. Lake Ontario is expected to rise by three inches.

The National Weather Service has issued a “Hazardous Weather” warning for areas in Erie, Monroe, Orleans, Niagara, and Genesee counties.

The weather service says a low pressure system could bring one to two inches of rain in the Niagara region and lower Genesee Valley now through Friday. 

Water levels in area creeks and rivers are expected to rise and some locations may experience flooding.

Officials regulating a dam that affects water levels in the lake and river basins said more flooding is expected due to heavy seasonal rains.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said operating plans for the dam require that "when Lake Ontario rises to 75.50 m (247.7 ft.) that its outflows be increased such that levels at Lake St. Louis are increased and maintained at 22.40 m (73.5 ft), which the Board recognizes is above a flood level at this location.

"Given it appears very likely that Lake Ontario will remain at or above 75.50m (247.7 ft.) for some time, Lake St. Louis levels will be maintained at 22.40 m (73.5 ft) for the foreseeable future."

​Parts of Montreal were seeing serious flooding Wednesday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Many homes were being evacuated.

Wednesday morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it had issued a Declaration of Emergency, activating an emergency operation center and making experts available to help localities. Engineers and others can provide technical aid on issues such as emergency construction, threatened dams and stream data, the Corps said. 

Lt. Col. Adam Czekanski, the Buffalo District commander, said in a statement, "Our District Emergency Management office continues to coordinate with local and state emergency management offices to ensure the Corps of Engineers is making as many resources available to aid during this ongoing emergency."

Meanwhile, residents and officials were assessing the damage from heavy rains and flooding.

In Toronto, beaches along Lake Ontario were being repaired.

Nancy Gaffney of the Toronto and Region Conservation, said that waves were breaking above the concrete seawalls meant to protect the harbor islands.

"The waves at this water level are just flying right over those walls," she told the Globe and Mail. "We're getting a lot of calls by island residents concerned about their property."

In Chaumont, N.Y., at the eastern end of the lake, firefighters filled sandbags to protect buildings.

"Right now, we are not concentrating on the seawall. We are focusing on saving structures, assistant fire chief Carl F. Seery told the Watertown Daily Times. "We are not building you a seawall."

Tuesday, May 2

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday afternoon that the state was rebuffed in its request to ease flooding by having more water let out of Lake Ontario through a dam.

"We have asked and they have refused," Cuomo said, referring to the International Joint Commission. That bi-national body regulates dams on U.S.-Canada boundary waters.

According to Cuomo, the IJC is concerned that releasing more water from the Moses-Saunders dam could increase flooding downstream, in the St. Lawrence River region. He said he is pressing the IJC to change its decision.

Speaking in Rochester, near the shore of Lake Ontario. Cuomo declared a state of emergency, a move designed to give agencies more flexibility and reduce bureaucratic delays. He also said that the state is assembling a response team to help communities affected by flooding.

"We're assembling equipment, bringing resources from across the state in case we need it," he said. The equipment includes sandbags, pumps, rescue boats and high-axle vehicles that can drive through water, he said. Some 365,000 sandbags have been sent to the region.

The state also set up a hotline for area residents to get flooding forecasts and other information such as  help with sandbags or technical assistance on repairs. The number is 866.244.3839.

Cuomo's remarks focused attention on the dam east of Lake Ontario.

But an IJC spokesman said he was unaware of any state request to the commission. 

Earlier, the spokesman, Frank Bevacqua, said the commission is monitoring flooding on both sides of the dam. 

Setting outflows is a balancing act. Hold back too much water and areas around the lake could flood. Let a lot of water through the dam and downstream communities could flood.

“Plan 2014 [which governs dam outflows] is releasing as much water as possible from Lake Ontario consistent with not creating more severe flooding around Montreal," Bevacqua told WXXI in Rochester.

Buffalo broke a 142-year-old record for rainfall Monday, according to the National Weather Service. It   reported that 1.29 inches of rain fell, causing flooding in some areas. The old record was 0.77 inches,  the Buffalo News reported.

The National Weather Service forecast says more rain is on the way. It expects continued showers along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, in the Buffalo and Rochester areas.

The weather service warned that lakeshore flooding was possible due to a combination of high lake levels, powerful northwest winds and strong waves. A flood watch is in effect through late Wednesday afternoon.  

The weather service also warned that high winds could knock down trees and power lines, creating power outages.

 

It issued a wind advisory in Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Erie, Genesee and Chautauqua counties until 11 p.m. The advisory says wind speeds will hit 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph.

 

Farther east, the heavy rains flooded dozens of streets in the Canadian city of Gatineau and firefighters were going door to door Tuesday morning, asking people to evacuate their homes.

As of 7 a.m., nearly 20 streets were closed and firefighters had visited approximately 300 homes, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. 

"With what's expected by Wednesday or Thursday we can expect even more... We just want to make sure people are aware that they have options," city spokesman Yves Malancon told the CBC.

Gatineau is a northern suburb of Ottawa.

Hydro Meteo, which monitors rivers in Quebec, said in a weather bulletin said that heavy rains over the past 36 hours have swelled streams and rivers in many areas, including Quebec City. Some rivers were above flood levels.

Monday, May 1

Jim Peer's garage is almost a hundred feet from the Lake Ontario shoreline, but on Monday, it was covered in water.

"Since we've been here, we've never seen anything like this," he said, surveying the scene in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester. Waves whipped up by a storm tore down his sandbags and spilled into his yard.

As he and his neighbors used pumps and hoses to get water out of flooded crawlspaces, his wife, Heidi, said the flood has taken an emotional toll. "Now you start wondering, is this something that we have to look forward to every spring? When a northeast storm comes in?"  

Communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario are feeling the impact of flood waters, and heavy rains continue to threaten the area.

Related news: New York town fights to protect barrier beach.

On Edgemere Drive in Greece, lawns and driveways were littered with debris, silt -- and even fish. Residents were cleaning up their properties.

Meanwhile, officials worried about the rain and floodwaters overwhelming local stormwater systems. Town Supervisor Bill Rilich said that if the sewer system becomes compromised, they may have to shut off water to people living along the lake.

Farther west, officials in Niagara County and emergency crews were working to remediate damage. Areas hit by moderate to severe flooding include the towns of Olcott and Wilson, along with other areas along the shoreline.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch from 2 p.m. Monday into the evening for much of the region. Showers and thunderstorms may produce anywhere from 1 to 2 inches of rain, and there is the possibility of severe weather early Monday evening.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Mitchell said the lake is about 15 inches above normal and is expected to rise another 3-4 inches, depending on how much rain the area receives this week. He expects residents to be dealing with flooding into "the foreseeable future," as it will takes quite a while for all that water to subside.

New York State Senator Pamela Helming (R-Canandaigua) was among the officials calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help with the unprecedented flooding of Lake Ontario.

Helming wants the governor to issue a state of emergency in flooded areas so towns and villages can obtain federal aid. 

"We need to do something to provide relief," she said. "What’s the message that we're sending to all these property owners and business owners? And what’s the messages were sending about the protection of our lake? Sorry, we’re just going to stand by and do nothing?"

Some officials and residents blame flooding and erosion along Lake Ontario on a new plan that manages lake levels.

Experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers, disagree. They say months of heavy snow and rain caused the high waters, but they acknowledge that the management plan is likely to bring more frequent floods in the future.

The plan, which took effect in January, was established by the International Joint Commission. That U.S./Canada agency helps to regulate the Great Lakes, and governs dams on boundary waters.

IJC officials have said most of the problem with the high water levels is due to heavy precipitation over the last couple of months.

Marian Hetherly of WBFO and Caitlyn White and Randy Gorbman of WXXI contributed to this story.

This story will be updated throughout the day.

Copyright 2017 Great Lakes Today. To see more, visit Great Lakes Today.