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Friday, March 07, 2008

Lake levels highest on record

Higher than normal water levels in Lake Simcoe could lead to flooding this spring.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) staff say water levels in the lake are approximately one foot higher than those normally expected at this time of year.

The mid-winter thaw in January is one of the primary factors for the high levels and the coming spring thaw will add additional water as snow and ice melts.

The high water levels "increase potential for flooding in low-lying areas where ground levels are only slightly higher than normal lake levels," the LSRCA's press release reads.

"Flooding caused by ice jams, wave action and high winds may also increase as a result of these elevated lake levels."

In an interview Wednesday, Tom Hogenbirk, manager of engineering and technical services with the LSRCA, said there is the potential for severe flooding in many areas around the lake.

The agency will continue to monitor the situation and will issue condition reports regularly.

He's also urging residents to be keep an eye out for ice jams or blocked culverts.

"One thing people can do is be the eyes and ears of their municipality. If they see something forming, they should alert the municipality immediately," he said.

"That's critical."

The potential for severe flooding, Mr. Hogenbirk said, is of particular concern if the watershed experiences warmer temperatures and/or heavy rains.

"The extent of any flooding really depends on what happens in the next few weeks," he said.

Mayor Larry O'Connor discussed the issue at Monday's council meeting, saying Gamebridge, Thorah Island and the Alsop's Beach area are at risk of flooding.

However, Mayor O'Connor said, the threat pales in comparison to the one facing neighbouring municipalities.

"Georgina and Lagoon City would likely be the hardest hit," he said.

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