Heavy Rains Push Lake Champlain to Its Highest Water Level Ever | NECN

Heavy Rains Push Lake Champlain to Its Highest Water Level Ever

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, VT) - Safety officials in Vermont are urging caution and common sense. That's because Lake Champlain is well past flood stage.

    The frigid water has seriously damaged homes and may have ruined some major roads.

    Safety officials in Vermont are urging caution and common sense, with Lake Champlain well past flood stage. The frigid water has seriously damaged homes, and may have ruined some major roads.

    The ducks have a new place to explore in Colchester, Vermont.

    A lakeside street there is underwater. Resident Sue McMullen has never seen Lake Champlain so high, and the water is still rising. "I'm nervous," she said. "Oh, yeah."

    Vermont's most famous lake hit a record level Thursday and smashed that mark just a day later. All up and down the shoreline, beaches are gone, homes and basements are flooded, sandbags can barely hold on, and debris is everywhere. "We really aren't at the bottom of this one yet," warned Governor Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

    Gov. Shumlin toured flood-ravaged St. Albans Bay, where some roads are closed because they're either swamped or have structural problems. Shumlin says state crews are tallying the destruction, but they expect it'll easily meet the $1-million threshold to qualify for federal disaster aid. "The chances of Vermont not having a million dollars in damage is pretty remote," Shumlin explained, "between our roadways, public septic systems, and municipal water systems under water."

    The problem is historic and unavoidable.

    Seventeen rivers flow into Lake Champlain. They're now bringing four inches of fresh rainfall, and lots of melting snow from the mountains. On the Burlington waterfront, ECHO, the Lake Champlain science center and aquarium, could have expanded its exhibits: its parking lot is now part of the lake. "It's almost as high as the land right now, wherever you go," said Phelan Fretz, the executive director of ECHO.

    One of the devices that measures the lake level read 102.6 feet at lunchtime Friday. That's 6 or 7 feet higher than summertime averages. The lake level smashed a record that stood for more than 18 years. Now the aquarium is looking at remaking their sign that lists the record. "Here you make a sign you think is good forever?" Fretz chuckled. "no!"

    Fretz expects the lake level will continue to rise slightly over the weekend, before beginning to draw down.
    Sue McMullen is hoping the creeping water doesn't force her from her home, as it has to some neighbors.

    "Hopefully, it won't get much higher than this," she sighs. McMullen is one of many Vermonters who wish this were one record that went unbroken.