Heavy rains have pushed area water bodies to dangerous levels, prompting officials to set up an Emergency Operations Center in Saranac Lake in order to monitor the situation.
Officials from the village of Saranac Lake, the town of Harrietstown, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services have teamed up in order to monitor water levels along the Saranac River chain.
The team is keeping a close eye on weather forecasts and will provide updates every four hours from the temporary command center, located at the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently working with the village of Saranac Lake in order to manage water levels from Second Pond down to the Saranac River.
DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell described the effort as a "balancing act."
"There's so much water out there in the whole Saranac watershed that we're having problems upstream," he said. "Our locks are closed so we're not running water through the locks - we're holding water back. But we are releasing water through sluice gates there at the lock. We're working with the village to come to a balance, because with all these water control structures, you have to work this fine balance between flooding upstream and flooding downstream of these structures. So we're coordinating with the village on that."
Speaking last night, Franklin County Emergency Services Director Rick Provost says officials are keeping a constant watch on the Lake Flower dam.
Below the dam, water has crested the banks of the Saranac River, spilling into the Dorsey Street parking lot and other low-lying areas along the river, Provost said.
"We've opened the dam a total of 31 inches today with very little result on the upside of the dam towards Lower Saranac," he said. "If anything we're only maintaining, we haven't been able to lower the lake level like we'd like to."
Saranac Lake Village Police Chief Bruce Nason says officers are urging residents of Dorsey Street to evacuate their homes. Brendan Keough, chief of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, says nearly 60 members of the department are on-call, while fire and rescue departments from surrounding communities are providing assistance.
Provost says the dam itself is not experiencing any structural issues, although there are some concerns about the Main Street bridge. Additionally, the village was forced to shut-off one of its floodgates below the dam due to erosion.
Speaking early Wednesday evening, Kevin Pratt from the village's Wastewater Treatment Plant explained the situation at the dam.
"Right now, we're exceeding 24 inches over the spillway and we've got one of our floodgates open all the way," he said. "We have flooding upstream, the water is hitting the bridge and we can't stop that. We're starting to impact people downstream. We've sandbagged down at Munn's on Woodruff Street, we've sandbagged behind the town hall and Rice Furniture, and upstream near Gauthier's motel to try and help those people."
The Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter at the Methodist Church in Saranac Lake for anyone forced to leave their homes.
Further downstream, some homes are reportedly surrounded by water. Fred Parker, who lives near Sumner Brook in Bloomingdale, says his garage is flooding. He's been reporting water levels to the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department and notes that the river raised by about three inches over night.