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USGS: North Country flooding worst on record

Waters are still high as communities across the North Country stare down the devastation of this spring's record floods.

Damages are in the millions, with reports still being tallied. Rivers are generally very high, but below flood stage. Lake Champlain was still well over 102 feet at the ferry dock in Burlington earlier this week, with the Weather Service predicting the water will go down very slowly.

North Country Congressman Bill Owens toured parts of Essex and Franklin counties again late last week. He told reporters he's confident that President Barack Obama will declare a statewide disaster for New York and that aid will be available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Owens said communities will see a fast response, with aid for municipal damages, bridges, and roads - but also said aid for private property owners may take longer to come through.

The congressman also said he's been told this was a 500 year flood.

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Tom Suro doesn't put that kind of number on the combination of rain and spring snow runoff. But he says it's the worst in the USGS records, and something he never expected to see in his lifetime.

"Everything is running about twice the average flow for this time of year," Suro said. "For the most part, we've come down quite a bit but we're still running above average. Lake Champlain is obviously still running well above its normal elevation."

According to Suro, it's tough to establish a timeline for when water levels will return to normal. That task gets more difficult as rain continues to fall across the region, he adds.

"So far, everything is kind of on a slow or delayed recession because we keep getting continual bouts of rain on top of everything else," Suro said.

Suro notes that it was surprising to see some rivers run so high, especially the Raquette River.

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