POINT AU ROCHE - The water levels on Lake Champlain have been rising steadily over the last three weeks, and Alice T. Sample has been watching them.
"It was very gradual in the beginning, but in this last week, it has been rising sometimes six inches a day," said Sample. "It's really come up tremendously."
As Sample stood on her back porch Thursday looking out at the lake, it was a view of the water much closer than should would have liked.
"Normally, you'd see this beautiful retaining wall," Sample said, motioning to her backyard. "It's about 75 feet out, but you can't see it now."
The retaining wall? Under water. The green grass and plants that Sample cares for on a regular basis? Gone.
It's the highest Sample said she's seen the lake rise in a long time.
"Craig [Sample's husband] said the water's the highest it's ever been since 1869," she said.
Sample's husband has been tracking the crest levels on Lake Champlain through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and received word the lake has crested over the 102.10 ft record.
"The highest we have ever seen was the 101.88 back in 1993," said Sample.
When that happened, it resulted in she and her husband deciding to have their house raised 40 inches with a new foundation created beneath it.
"This morning, we had ducks swimming up to the first step on our deck, investigating to see if there was any food. Right down there is where our house was before," said Sample, pointing to the bottom of the stairs to her deck. "If we hadn't raised the house, we'd be under water right now."
Though Sample doesn't have concerns about water coming into the first floor of her house, she does worry about water flooding her basement. More importantly, she has concerns about it affecting her home septic system and well.
"That's what we're really worried about. If that happens, we'll have to leave. We can't live here without those," said Sample, adding she and her husband have already begun to make arrangements to evacuate.
Sample - who runs the Journey Into Reading program, an organization which encourages literacy in youths by providing them with free books - had another concern as water crept up. She motioned to several inches of water covering the brick pavers in front of her house leading up to her front porch and how the water was beginning to kiss the edge of the garage.
"That's where I store the books," she said. "We had to get those out of there or they could have been ruined ... This is just unbelievable."
Down the road in Dickson Point, Donald W. Turner was dealing with headaches of his own. That same day, he was also trudging through several inches of water in his front yard. The water had risen fast overnight, breaching the shoreline and sweeping across his property and across the end of the dead end road where his home rests.
The high water was something he was bracing for, but had no idea would come up so fast.
"Last night was a pleasant evening. We sat out and had a drink ...there was a little bit of standing water, but nothing like this," said Turner as he stood in his driveway with water nearly to the top of his rubber boots.
"My wife woke up this morning around 2 a.m. to the sound of the sump pump running continuously. It sounded like running water. So, I got up and went down to the basement where there's an old chimney that has an ash vent and water was just gushing in through that."
"We're completely filled up under the house at this point," he added.
The massive flooding was what Turner considered the worst welcoming present as he and his wife, Kerrie, had just arrived at Dickson Point the previous afternoon. The couple have owned their house there for seven years, using it as a vacation home. It was only recently they retired, made the decision to make the Dickson Point property their permanent residence and sold their home in Buffalo.
"So, this is a nice welcome," said Turner as he tried to find some semblance of levity in the situation and let out a chuckle.
The days ahead will determine how much worse it can get for people like the Turners and the Samples and those along the banks of the several rivers and tributaries throughout the region.
"I think we're okay if it doesn't get any higher. We get six more inches of water and we're going to be battling," said Turner, who said if the course of the wind changes from the south to from the north, his worries increase of large tides and more damage. "Right now, we've got our fingers crossed."
(Editor's Note: We'll continue to follow the story of the flooding affecting our region. Keep checking www.denpubs.com for more details and the latest as this chain of events unfolds.)