Communities along Lake Ontario will need to exercise caution around shoreline areas that are flooding or eroding at levels not seen since 2017, but the worst could still be in store as peak levels are expected within the next two weeks, authorities say.
At Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s tidal observation station in Toronto, water levels are averaging 75.85 metres, just eight centimetres below 2017 levels that wreaked havoc on the city. Before 2017, the previous time water levels reached such heights was 1973.
“Once peaked, water levels in Lake Ontario will then take several weeks to recede back down to normal levels,” the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority warned in a May 24 advisory. “Even as water levels recede, risks continue during times of heavy wind or wave activity.”
Some experts believe that Lake Ontario is receiving a record inflow of water from Lake Erie.
Toronto Island, in particular, continues to be vulnerable as strong winds create waves that have breached sandbag barriers. Crews have also installed 24 industrial pumps for the island.
In the nearby City of Hamilton, officials say that Lake Ontario water levels are more than a metre higher than usual. According to the Hamilton Conservation Authority, several sections of the Waterfront Trail have been closed due to flooding and erosion.
Along Beach Boulevard, Hamilton has already deployed pumps to address flooding impacting about 25 homes.
East of Toronto in the City of Belleville, municipal staff are busy planning a strategy to protect drinking water if Lake Ontario levels around the Bay of Quinte rise another 30 cm. Perry DeCola, general manager for the city’s environmental services, explained to media that they would build a hydraulic cement berm in the water treatment plant to protect lake water from contaminating drinking water.
Belleville could also utilize pumps if lake water should begin entering the local sewer system.
Further east, in the City of Brockville, the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority placed several areas around waterways under a flood warning earlier this month.
An updated provincial flood watch statement, issued by the Surface Water Monitoring Centre of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry on May 10, remains in effect.