Olcott residents remain on edge because of Lake Ontario water levels

Water level is at 2017 levels and likely to grow more

Mike Baggerman
May 23, 2019 - 3:00 am

Lake Ontario flooding at Olcott. May 20, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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OLCOTT, N.Y. (WBEN) - Homeowners along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Olcott remain on edge because of the rising water levels in Lake Ontario.

As of Wednesday, the average water level on Lake Ontario is 248.67 feet, which is just .02 feet shy of matching the record previously set in 2017. The water level rose by more than a foot in the last month. The current water height is more than two-and-a-half feet higher than the average height of 246.06.

We talked to two Olcott residents, Diane Harig and Ann Raskopf, whose homes are next to the water. While they're not in the most dangerous areas along the water, they do see wave action once winds come in from the northeast.

"We're safe but we've got a lot of houses along here that are not safe," Harig said. "They've already rebuilt one of them that flooded. We've got another at the end of our road that flooded. The ground saturated and their foundation slipped."

Harig's home isn't completely in the clear, though. They've been fortunate to avoid sewer backups, though it does remain a possibility.

Lake Ontario flooding at Olcott. May 20, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

She expressed her disappointment over the lack of previous local representation on the International Joint Commission, the governing body that regulates the highs and lows of Lake Ontario. Clarence native Jane Corwin was recently appointed to represent New York on the IJC.

Ann Raskopf has lived along Olcott's waterfront for decades, while her family resided there for generations.

"2017 and 2019 are comparable," she said while noting her property hasn't been affected yet. "If the winds come out of the northeast or east, it's very scary. We have huge waves in the channel. We used ot be semi-protected by the east pier but now that it's almost covered in water, some days more than others...the waves on this channel are incredible."

She said the waves hit the break wall and fly as high as 20 feet in the air. She said one of her neighbors lost several doors once the water splashed over the breakwall.

Raskopf praised the work by Niagara County to assist locals affected by the water levels.

"We've been lucky," Raskopf said.

Both Raskopf and Harig pushed for out-of-towners to visit Olcott, especially for this weekend's opening of Olcott Beach Carousel Park.

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