Homeowners on lake thankful for help in fighting flooding
National Guard, local and state governments praised for response
Photos by Tom Rivers
CARLTON – Members of the National Guard have been in Carlton today, stacking sandbags to protect two homes on a peninsula that are very vulnerable to flooding. The houses are on Park Road and are surrounded by water on three sides, from Lake Ontario and Johnson Creek.
A chunk of Park Road washed out about three weeks ago. Residents at three houses have to walk through the washed out road to reach their houses. John DeFilipps, an Orleans County legislator, is among the residents on the peninsula that is no longer accessible to regular traffic.
DeFilipps and his wife Donna bought their house by the lake in 1998. They experienced flooding two years ago and rebuilt their breakwall. Some of that wall with smaller stones has been knocked loose as the lake levels rose and the waves got stronger. The DeFilipps couple has spent several hours this weekend picking up driftwood and rocks that were heaved into their yard from the strong waves.
“Our cellar is a swimming pool now,” Mr. DeFilipps said.
He estimated about 16 inches of water is in the basement.
The DeFilipps house has been popular today as a bathroom break for about 40 members of the National Guard.
DeFilipps reached the house today by rolling up his pantlegs and walking in flip flops down the washed out road, hanging onto trees so he didn’t fall into the water.
He said the Johnson Creek Peninsula, just north of the Kuckville hamlet on Route 18, is a striking location.
“It used to be a peninsula, but now we’re an island,” DeFilipps said about the rising water that cut through the road.
He commended the local governments and state agencies for their efforts in getting sandbags and AquaDams in place for residents in the past month. The state also has paid to fortify many of the break walls along the lake since the 2017 flooding.
Some of those break walls, however, have been knocked apart, DeFilipps said, especially with the smaller stones. The waves can easily lift the light rocks up and heave them off a breakwall.
Family feared century-old cottage would be lost
Gary Hudson, 72, is thankful to see so many National Guardsmen. He owns a cottage from 1922 that has been in his family for nearly a century. He feared it would be ruined from the invading water.
He praised the efforts of the National Guard, the Carlton Highway Department and Dale Banker, director of the Orleans County Emergency Management Office.
“I appreciate the hell out of these guys,” Hudson said today, watching the National Guard stack sandbags around the cottage.
Hudson’s nephew Todd Hansler was worried the cottage would be destroyed by the water. He called Banker on Wednesday. Banker had state officials check the site and they approved having the National Guard come in and stack sand bags.
It was difficult to get the pallets of sandbags to the site because the road is washed out. The Carlton highway department used a payloader with big tires to move the pallets to the site.
A New York Naval Militia boat also brought in sandbags. That boat has been busy on the southshore, most recently at Sodus in Wayne County. Today the sandbags were loaded onto the boat at the state boat launch on Archibald Road and then taken by boat to the Park Road site.
The pallets hold 40 sandbags that each weigh about 40 pounds, for about 1,600 pounds total.
‘It’s the most fantastic thing ever, having them out here helping us’
Pat Cummings has the house right at the end of the peninsula. Two years ago the cottage suffered lots of flooding damage. Cummings had a new breakwall put in, raised the main door by six inches, and sealed openings to help keep out the water.
Cummings said the place is better fortified for flooding this time. But she worried as the lake level kept going up, now higher than the peak in 2017.
She and her family hauled sandbags to the site by themselves in 2017. It was slow and exhausting.
She tried again to move the sandbags herself this week. They are heavy.
The National Guard is far faster.
“It’s the most fantastic thing ever, having them out here helping us,” she said.
Cummings has owned the cottage since 2011.
“In normal conditions it’s the best spot in the world,” she said. “It’s my paradise.”
The National Guard members are from the Air Force in Niagara Falls and the Army in Rochester.
The National Guard has been in Orleans County for about a month, first filling sandbags and now stacking them at properties along the lake. Many of the National Guardsmen are working five days and then getting two days off, before another five-day shift.
The National Guard worked with local officials to get the sandbags in place before an increased chance of flooding is expected, beginning at 6 p.m. today. That flood warning from the National Weather Service continues until 8 a.m. Tuesday.