Freedom — May 23, 2007 — As April and May showers have soaked the Mount Washington Valley, Bob Smart has watched Ossipee Lake overflow its banks like an overfilled bathtub.
Back in early April, when ice still clung to parts of the lake, Smart counted four kayaks, three sections of dock and a navigation marker floating by his property on the north end of North Broad Bay in Freedom — evidence of high water levels inundating low-lying beaches.
“My warning to anybody is to expect high water and tie things down accordingly,” said Smart, who writes a lake level report for the Ossipee Lake Alliance website (www.ossipeelake.org). Smart reported that last weekend’s rainfall boosted the lake level to nearly 4 inches above summer level by Monday morning, or 407.58 feet above sea level. Summer level — the preferred balancing point for maximum access — is 407.25 feet above sea level.
“I had no problem, where I got my dock in, I can take an extra foot, but my neighbor down here had water in his basement,” Smart said Monday. “The lake has continued to go up, and it hit a stage at 8 a.m. Monday morning where it was 4 inches above summer level. The desired summer level is supposed to start June 1,” he reported.
On Monday at 10 a.m., the state dam authority opened two additional gates to release water.
“They’re doing their darndest to try and watch it and try to avoid a flood but keep the lake up for the summer,” Smart noted. “If we don’t have another major rainstorm of an inch or more then they’ll have it right on the button by June 1.”
Still, it’s been a topsy-turvy spring on Ossipee Lake. Back-to-back snowstorms followed by a drenching nor’easter added up to the ninth wettest April on record in New Hampshire. On April 12, a nor’easter dumped nearly a half foot of rain in five hours in places like North Conway and Madison, knocking out power and tearing up roads. New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and Public Service of New Hampshire together reported more than 70,000 outages from the torrential rains and winds in mid-April.
Ossipee Lake was at 406.98 feet on May 7, dipping to 406.60 feet by May 14 during a dry spell that ended with a rainstorm that dumped .84 inches of rain on May 15-16. Rain fell in spurts until May 20. In the latest Smart Report, filed at noon Saturday, the lake level was at 407.25 feet, but no sooner did the e-mail go out then it started raining again.
“After I hit ‘send’ on the computer, it started to rain,” Smart recalled. “From Saturday night to Sunday night, we got an inch and a half of rain.”
This week’s lake level didn’t compare with last year’s at around this time. In mid-May 2006, Smart recorded a lake depth of 410.9 feet at his measuring site. Property owners, mostly those with lakefront homes with basements on Ossipee Lake, were fortifying with sandbags, and there continued to be lake-shore flooding in the wake of heavy rains that year.
This year, the lake level has bobbed with brief bursts of moisture. “Before we had that April rain, it was real low, and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to need some help to get my docks off.’ Then, the water was so high that they floated. I had to wait for the lake to go down before I could go down there and do anything,” Smart recalled.