State Of Emergency Declared Along Lake Ontario

Apr 21, 2017

ROCHESTER (Great Lakes Today) - Rising levels on Lake Ontario have prompted officials in counties near Buffalo and Rochester to declare a state of emergency. Officials said they expect higher than normal water levels over the next few days and into the weekend -- with a possibility of flooding. 

Credit Dave Rosenthal

Jonathan Schultz, director of emergency services in Niagara County, says there's been minor to moderate flooding in some areas. But the county is still using caution.

"We'll be working on hauling in sand and we'll start building sand bags to start protecting overlying areas and critical infrastructure," said Schultz.

Water levels on Lake Ontario have increased 10 inches above normal since the start of April, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Community safety committee chairman David Godfrey in Niagara County says the levels are much higher than past springs. That's causing dangerous situations along the shore, especially for boaters.

"Because of the heavy inflows, it's pulling ... trees and limbs and other debris into the lake, causing hazards for our boaters," he said. "And along the lake shore there's obstacles that now are submerged, it could be docks it could be rocks, that used to be seen." 

Godfrey is advising boaters to stay 500 feet away from the shoreline. Also, people walking near steep banks along Lake Ontario should use caution and stay as far from the edge as possible.

In Wayne County, outside Rochester, officials also declared a state of emergency for the area's bays and harbors.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Steven LeRoy and Sheriff Barry Virts said a "special state of emergency" was in place for Sodus Bay, Port Bay, East Bay, Blind Sodus Bay, Pultneyville Harbor and Bear Creek Harbor.

As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, motorized boat traffic must operate at idle speed only, causing no wake on those bays and harbors.