Emergency Declared

B y Derek Liebig

For the second time in less than a month, flooding has caused local officials to declare a state of emergency.

Mayor Peter Telisky declared a state of emergency last week for areas of the village still inundated by flood waters.

The decree was made on Friday, May 23 and ended yesterday.

The order was made in advance of the opening of the New York State Canal System, which was scheduled to open for boat traffic last weekend.

It was feared that the movement of vessels through the canal and Locke 12 could raise water levels even higher and create waves that would compound problems associated with the flooding in the village’s north end.

Because of the state of emergency, Lock 12 remains closed to recreational traffic. Commercial and non-recreational traffic is being evaluated on a case by case basis.

A tug boat bound for Crown Point was granted passage Monday morning and Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon said the vessel passed through without incident or creating a wake. 

Both local marinas remain closed until water levels drop.

Bill Cook, director of the Washington County Department of Public Safety said he toured the community, as well as Fort Edward, with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York State Office of Emergency Management last week to assess the damage to private and public property.

“We are trying to determine if we meet the threshold for assistance,” Cook said.

That required minimum threshold for assistance is $199,607 in public property damage, but Cook said preliminary estimates are far short of that threshold.

He said other than one house there really hasn’t been much major damage to the structure of local buildings.

Mayor Telisky said at last week’s board meeting that the village continues to look at types of assistance that may be available.

“It’s going to be tough for Whitehall. I don’t know, we’re going to follow it,” he said.

He didn’t rule out the village helping with clean up efforts after water levels finally do drop, which according to some reports could be awhile.

Water levels continue to be nearly 2.5 feet above flood levels at approximately 102.6 feet, and it doesn’t appear it will change soon.

Thunderstorms and periods of rain are forecasted to persist through the weekend.

The silver lining: representatives from the National Weather Service (NOAA) in Burlington said thunder storms typically don’t as have much of an impact on water levels as widespread consistent rain.

Even if Whitehall can dodge some of the rain drops, it may take as much as a month before water levels drop below flood levels.

“It’s a long process for it (Lake Champlain) to recess,” said Cook. “It’s a bad scenario, there’s no place for the water to go. It’s going to be a long time before waters get to normal levels.”

A representative from the NOAA said Lake Champlain drains to the north near Rouses Point and tends to take awhile to do so.

“It’s very slow, it’s going to take awhile, maybe as long as another month,” he said.

Sunny, dry weather could expedite the process some, but not much.

The area has been flooded since the end of last month, an unprecedented amount of time on the lake.

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