LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Last Friday, high water caused problems in a couple of spots in the Warren County area. As crews closed down sections of road between Warrensburg and Thurman to deal with one flood, a second on a smaller scale presented a different type of problem. This one wasn’t on a highway, but rather on Canada Street, downtown in the village of Lake George.
“There was water like a pond over there,” said Mohammad Tariq, owner and operator of the Howard Johnson by Wyndham hotel. “The highest we have probably got in the last couple of times.”
Tariq woke up on Friday and spent some time in his hotel’s office as usual, when his son alerted him to a situation in the parking lot. The lot on the north side of the building was submerged in around 6 feet of water, resulting from snowmelt and warmer weather last week. Luckily, the hotel doesn’t rent out rooms in that section of the building when there’s a threat of rain—but that didn’t stop one unfortunate visitor who had chosen to park there.
“He drove into the water, and then the engine failed, and he couldn’t come out,” described Tariq on Monday. “He was trapped there, and the fire department came and rescued him.”
The man was rescued from the roof of his truck by Lake George Volunteer Fire Department on Friday morning. A video on Facebook circulated on Friday, taken by Vance Cohen, owner of Queensbury Taxi. The video, taken around noon, features the truck’s cab poking out of still water.
As Tariq said on Monday, this isn’t the first time his lot has been submerged, and he doesn’t expect it to be the last. The lot is lower than the stretch of Canada Street in front of it, with Prospect Mountain practically at the hotel’s back door to the east. When rain falls or snow melts, the Howard Johnson hotel effectively turns into a giant collection bucket—and a hard one to drain, at that.
“We’ve been working on a solution there for, I want to say, several years,” said Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais on Tuesday. “We believe that there’s a responsibility there from both the DOT (New York State Department of Transportation) and DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation).”
Canada Street is part of New York State Route 9, a busy artery that leads south to Queensbury, Glens Falls, and all the way to Albany, as well as north to Warrensburg and into the Adirondacks. It eventually reaches both Canada and New York City. At some point, the stretch of that route that enters Lake George and becomes Canada Street was widened to accommodate more lanes. When that happened, a drainage pipe was added to the problem parking lot at the Howard Johnson hotel, meant to carry water out to the lake on Beach Road.
That pipe worked for a time, but two developments turned up the water flow down to Tariq’s business at a rate that one little pipe can no longer handle. One change was on Route 87, the Adirondack Northway, which travels on higher ground on the western edge of the village.
If you drive along that stretch of Northway, you’ll pass under a footbridge that leads to a trail up Prospect Mountain, where the second problem now lies. A road traces a path up the mountain to a large parking lot, created by the state as a place to stop and enjoy the scenery looking down on Lake George. The issue is that the lot also redirects water flow. Blais and Tariq both know where it goes.
“That increased the runoff through the village by, I would say 5 or 10 times,” said Blais. “All these years, the village has increased the size of some of the streams as they go through the village on our property, and we’ve teamed up with private property owners to increase the size of the pipes on their property. That’s all been done, until it gets to Mohammad’s.”
The height of the water depends on the season, the cause, and the amount of clogging in the drain pipe. Tariq took charge of the hotel in 2011, and has been dealing with flooding like this ever since – hence why closing off rooms on that side of the building is a habit by now.
All of that water deals more than its share of damage on hotel rooms, too. Tariq estimates that he’s had to make repairs and fix problems in rooms as many as 20 times in his decade and change in Lake George. In the winter, he’s one of only two people staffing the hotel, meaning there’s only so much he can do so—and so quickly he can do it—when the water rises again. The water was out on Monday evening, but a threat of rain to come this week is a reminder that the problem isn’t hitting an endpoint anytime soon.
“It’s not my water that is obstructing my property,” said Tariq. “It’s the water that is coming from Prospect Mountain, through the entire town and village, and going through my property. If we have a drainage issue, it should be fixed. If it’s an old 40-, 50-, 60-year-old channel, it needs an update.”
Replacing or expanding the existing pipe would be an enormous public works undertaking, which would require tearing up a section of the busiest road in Lake George – and spending more money than the village has in the process. Blais estimates that crews who have gone down the village manholes have removed enough debris from that pipe over the years to fill two trucks.
The most recent thing that the village has seen from the state was a study performed late last year, identifying the existence of the persistent clogging problem that Tariq and Lake George have been battling for years. The village is trying to find out whether that study is going to lead to anything.
“It’s been a long and tedious process,” said Blais. “We want to talk to the fellow who did this study, to see what’s going to come of it. So far, it seems like nothing.”
There is some hope on the horizon for the waterlogged lot. Expanding the pipe isn’t the only way to abate the problem. There are two main streams that carry water down Prospect Mountain towards the village and lake. Years ago, one of those two was mitigated by the state, near the Northway, to trap the water and keep the Marriott hotel in the village from meeting a similar fate. Now, Blais hopes they’ll come back and do the same for the Howard Johnson hotel.
“There are certainly—I believe—similar answers to this problem, without digging up the road and that pipe,” said Blais. The village is also seeking grant funding to help fuel a project to mitigate things.
In the meantime, when asked to describe the damage to the hotel, Tariq’s answer is that he’s so distressed that it’s hard to even talk about. Nobody else along Canada Street is in a location left that vulnerable to water that should be flowing safely and unintrusively down to Lake George.
“I just hope that they can help me get this thing resolved,” Tariq said. “What can I do?”
More rain was expected Tuesday night in Warren County. The closed road stretch between Warrensburg and Thurman remained shut down to traffic, as water started rising again.