This Sunday, May 6th, marks the 1 year anniversary of historic flooding on Lake Champlain. On May 6th, 2011, Lake Champlain reached its highest level on record, topping out at 103.2' above sea level, more than 3 feet above what's considered "flood stage" and about 5 feet above a "normal" height of around 98' above sea level. The height of 103.2' that was reached on may 6, 2011 put Lake Champlain in the record books, cresting nearly a foot higher than the old record of ~102'- that record set in the mid 1800s!
So what led to this record lake level? A winter of epic snowfall, and an unusually wet spring reshaped the shoreline of this already massive body of water. The excessive runoff and snowmelt added extra water to the Lake, which slowly inundated nearby property, causing extensive damage. Check out this aerial photo of the water overtaking property nearby route 2 in Vermont, as well as the road itself!
For those visiting the shorelines, even right along the Burlington, would probably notice the water a bit closer than normal as popular businesses and restaurants slowly flooded. Amazingly, the photo below was taken on the Burlington bikepath when the lake just began to flood (at about 100'), but remember, the Lake rose another nearly 3 feet! When I checked it out in early May last year, those benches in the picture were fully submerged and I could only see the very tops of the back. Pretty incredible.
The boating season was put on hold in 2011 as the breakwater was also overtopped by high water and excess debris flowed into the lake. Eventually in mid June 2011, the water receded back to below flood stage.
This year, we will see no such thing. The lake level in 2012 is a remarkable nearly 7 feet lower. With a lack luster winter behind us (minimal snow), and a rather dry spring, the Lake is sitting a bit below average! Take a look at the comparison from 2011 (top red line) to 2012 (bottom blue line).
The data below is top 10 Lake levels on record. Data courtesy of the National Weather Service.
(1) 103.20 ft on 05/06/2011
(2) 102.10 ft on 05/04/1869
(3) 101.88 ft on 04/25/1993
(4) 101.86 ft on 04/28/1993
(5) 101.80 ft on 03/30/1903
(6) 101.71 ft on 04/05/1998
(7) 101.64 ft on 04/05/1976
(8) 101.62 ft on 04/29/1994
(9) 101.61 ft on 05/07/1983
(10) 101.61 ft on 03/27/1936