Once again, the Lake Ontario water level is high following a fall of high precipitation in the North Country, and across New York State.

Some residents and businesses along the lakeshore are nervous that not only are they going to be dealing with flooding when the winds gust over 40 mph out of the west and or northwest, but non-wind induced flooding heading into the spring too.  

According to Great Lakes Team Lead Hydraulic Engineer Bryce Carmichael there is reason to be on alert or aware but not to panic at this time.  

“Levels at this time of year are not a good indicator of what we are going to see in the spring,” Carmichael said. “It’s really driven by Mother Nature; how much snowpack and snowmelt we get in the winter coupled with how much spring precipitation comes in March and April.”

The Army Corps of Engineers analysis of the lake level data suggests there’s a 13% chance of water levels on Lake Ontario reaching 247.70 feet, also known as the threshold for still water flooding along the south shore of Lake Ontario.

To help prevent Lake Ontario from reaching this height, the regulatory Plan 2014 is being used and prescribes very high, increased outflows helping keep the lake level in check at least somewhat.

As of December 31, the lake level is 9 inches above average for this time of year, and over two feet below the crucial flooding height and expected to go down another inch in the next month too.

Carmichael also noted that two years ago in December 2019 the water level on Lake Ontario was about 5 inches higher than it is today and flooding did not occur the following spring.

It’s this type of information that emphasizes the importance of the winter and spring precipitation amounts when it comes to flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline.  

If we have an average winter and spring when it comes to snow and rainfall there should not be any flooding but if it’s more active, wetter/whiter property owners will have to be on guard according to Bryce. 

Also, about 85% of the water flowing into Lake Ontario comes from Lake Erie through the Niagara River which is uncontrolled and plays a big role on the water levels on Lake Ontario too. Lake Erie’s water levels are down about two and a half inches compared to this time last year.