May 5, 2011 / 8:31 PM / 8 years ago

Vermont's Lake Champlain to crest at highest since 1869

BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency on Thursday, as Lake Champlain was forecast to crest at record levels by the weekend, officials said.

The lake has been above record flood levels for more than a week, with waters expected to remain high into mid-May, said Ed Capone, National Weather Service coordination hydrologist.

Heavy rain for the last 10 days coupled with snow melt pushed Lake Champlain water levels in some areas above record flooding of 102.1 feet set in 1869, said Capone.

The lake is expected to crest at 103.3 feet by Saturday, and windy gusts could produce waves above that level, he said.

Lake Champlain is the sixth largest natural lake in the country, trailing only the Great Lakes in size. It is more than 120 miles long, stretching from points in New York to Vermont and into Canada with nearly 600 miles of total shoreline.

By declaring a state of emergency, Vermont has access to the National Guard’s high water vehicles and helicopters to help reach isolated residents, the governor said.

National Guard teams also can help with efforts to sandbag vulnerable areas.

Roads have been underwater for days, and evacuations have been conducted as needed, said Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma.

No major injuries or deaths have been attributed to the flooding, said Bosma.

Initial damage estimates from the governor’s office top $3 million statewide, but Bosma said he expects that figure to climb.

Vermonters will have a respite from heavy rains for the next five to seven days, forecasts show, with flood water receding over the next several weeks.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune

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