Low-lying areas in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York were paying close attention to Lake Champlain Wednesday, after flood warnings issued for part of the day alerted them to the potential for minor problems.
The lake has been hovering around flood stage after recent wet weather and snowmelt from a long winter.
That high water and Wednesday’s strong winds were a messy combination for the city of Burlington’s waterfront. Parts of Perkins Pier and the approach to the ferry dock were drowning, with driftwood and other debris blocking a small stretch of the bike path prone to spring flooding.
A tour group from Burlington Segways was left looking for a new route as guides discussed Champ, the legendary lake monster some believe calls the lake home.
“Obviously, there’s water flowing over the pier now, so it’s too high,” Segway tour director Rick Sharp said of his brief detour around the soggiest areas. “It’s going to be a week or two before we can get out to the end of the pier here.”
Even near the 100-foot mark, where flooding tends to start, the lake is significantly below its destructive 2011 levels.
Higher water had crept up further on the same part of the city, as well as many other areas in the Champlain Valley, resulting in widespread damage in late April six years ago.
Several people watching the water from the Perkins Pier area Wednesday said they hope any headaches this year stay minor.
While the lake level is expected to gradually drop with only limited impact to the shore, the water will remain high. That’s because there’s still a lot of snow left in the mountains, and as it melts, the water ultimately flows into Lake Champlain.
“And we could still climb a little bit more,” Burlington waterfront director Erin Moreau observed of the lake level. “That does pose some issues of more cleanup. There won’t be too much beach area when we do start opening these beaches in the next month or so. But it’s really a ‘wait and see’ right now.”
Moreau said the current conditions are definitely preferable to last year’s, when she recalled the lake started with spring levels roughly two feet lower than they are today. Those levels kept dropping, posing big problems for boaters come summer.
The National Weather Service lowered its flood warning for Lake Champlain by late afternoon Wednesday, as water levels began to retreat.