Freedom — May 17, 2006 — Off-and-on showers Tuesday didn’t add up to any substantial flooding in Carroll County, although officials warned that heavier sustained rains could spell trouble with surging rivers and a full-to-the-rim Ossipee Lake. In Freedom, there were reports that the end of Pequawket Trail road was flooding, but otherwise problems were minimal there.
On May 15, Howard Bouve, a resident of Freedom who lives on the north end of Ossipee Lake, said he was pumping water out of a lake-level basement, but that situation wasn’t considered unusual for a lakefront resident.
“I have a basement, and the bottom is at lake level, so the pump is running all the time. We normally have a beach, but it’s under water,” he reported Tuesday morning.
The Branch River and Bearcamp River, flowing into Ossipee Lake near the north end, both were running high, buoyed by a weekend of steady rainfall.
“The Branch River comes from Silver Lake. It was virtually dry a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s up to the top of its banks,” Bouve said.
But asked about serious problems along his lake-shore area, Bouve said he had not heard of problems with houses being flooded.
“Most of us have experienced this before and are prepared for it, or should be,” he said.
Bob Smart, who lives on the north end of Broad Bay, reported on the Ossipee Lake Alliance Web site (www.ossipeelake.org), “Mother Nature broke through the line of defense Saturday evening and racked up a score of almost 410 feet above sea level on both the big lake and Broad Bay. The line of heavy rain that was predicted to stay south of Wakefield moved all of the way to Conway and delivered 5.5 inches of rain on my deck.”
“At the dam Friday morning, all five gates were opened, and then at 11 a.m. the following day (Saturday), 40 of the 52 stop logs were removed from the north side (they had been put in last Sunday for the first time this season when water level was not coming up as planned). Outflow water rate went from 1,000 cfs on Saturday to 4,247 this evening and will go higher if lake level increases. For all practical purposes, the dam has been wide open since Saturday morning. OL (Ossipee Lake) Marina has closed off access to their ramp and service buildings. No lights at the marina tonight so I expect power has been shut off.”
At midday Tuesday, Smart recorded a lake depth of 410.9 feet at his measuring site. A lake elevation of 407.25 feet is the summer norm, he said.
“I got another 6 inches since I wrote that last night,” he said Tuesday around 1 p.m. of the lake’s increased elevation, and an inch of rain had accrued since then, he said. The last incident of high water in the lake dates back to mid-June 1998, when the measurement exceeded 413 feet.
“I don’t think we’re going to get there this week,” Smart said.
“The rule of thumb is an inch of rain can result in a one-foot increase in elevation in the lake,” he said.
“We’re still coming up, but it’s slowed,” Smart said. “The big good news is we don’t have any wind. If this was coupled with a 10- to 15-mile-per-hour wind, we’d have a lot of erosion on the shore. I would say that the good news is we don’t seem to be having any problems with roads or bridges washed out. All in all the community is in pretty good shape.”
Residents can follow his postings for updates, but Smart noted that the state oversees management of the dam, while local officials change the dam settings. West Ossipee Fire Chief Bradley Eldridge said Tuesday, “We’ve been over to the dam several times today, and checked it, and everything’s going well.”
The lake level had receded about .75 inch, from 409.7 feet Monday night to 409.03 feet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, he said.
“We just ride it out, we can’t change Mother Nature. We’re letting out all the water we can,” Eldridge said.
Properties, mostly lakefront homes with basements on Ossipee Lake, were fortifying with sandbags, and there continued to be some lake-shore flooding, Eldridge said.
“The last count I had was probably half a dozen” basements flooded along the lake, Eldridge estimated early Tuesday.
Residents are urged to secure propane tanks to buildings, stay out of rivers or streams, and don’t venture into basements that experience flooding, but instead call the fire department, he said.
From Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon, the level of the Saco River in Conway had doubled, cresting its 9-foot flood stage at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, but the river level was leveling off at 7 feet on mid-day Tuesday.
Conway Fire Chief Larry Wade said, “We were down a few feet below flood stage.” Tuesday morning, the water along West Side Road was not high enough to prompt evacuations, he said.
“Luckily or unfortunately I guess, we’ve gone through this a number of times,” he said. “What happens normally, depending on how much it’s raining, during the daytime we keep an eye on things, and at night the police department keeps an eye on the river.”
If the river threatened, the fire and police departments could evacuate low-lying areas to prevent problems. Typically, when a bridge linking two sections of Transvale Acres is covered with water, an evacuation is in order. The Saco River may not overflow its banks immediately.
“It usually takes six or eight hours for it to crest,” Wade said.
Rains were sporadic enough Tuesday to avert major changes in the river elevation. Fryeburg Fire Chief Ozzie Sheaff said Tuesday the Saco River didn’t appear to be threatening residents there.
“Everything has started to recede,” he reported around mid-day. Bog Pond Road was closed due to about 16 inches of standing water, but otherwise Fryeburg did not experience problems with flooding, road commissioner Gary Whitten confirmed midday Tuesday.
The weather forecast called for an 80 percent chance of rain on Tuesday and a 50 percent chance of rain Tuesday night, between a quarter and a half an inch of new precipitation. Wednesday should be mostly cloudy with less than a tenth of an inch of rain predicted. Rainfall should dwindle as the week goes on, according to the weather service.