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June 28, 2012

2011 flooding: Forced to evacuate

PLATTSBURGH — When the water started spilling over the embankment separating Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh’s Lakeside Apartments, Jackie Prairie had a bad feeling. 

“I knew it was going to get worse,” she said.

Prairie had lived at the 460 Margaret St. complex for 20 years, and, like many other residents, she had seen the level of Lake Champlain rise and fall over the years. 

But in spring 2011, with the runoff from melted snow and heavy rains gradually pushing the shoreline closer and closer to the Lakeside property, Prairie knew the water posed a real threat. 

“I kept telling people, I said, ‘You’ve got to go ... this water is going to go right up to your back doors, and then you’re going to have water in your apartment.

“I used to say, ‘You’re not going to stop Lake Champlain. It’s going to wash everybody out of here.’” 

But many of Prairie’s neighbors didn’t take her advice.

“They didn’t really see what was coming,” she said. “They knew the water was just high. That’s all they knew.”

’LOST EVERYTHING’

And the water continued to rise. 

When her small boat could float on land, Prairie said, “that’s when I knew I had to go.”

She packed up her second-floor apartment, loaded her belongings into a U-Haul truck and went to stay with friends, but others remained in their apartments until they were finally forced to evacuate. 

“I wanted to stay,” said Evelyn Beshon, who lived at Lakeside for 10 years, “but it got so bad that the water was just rising, and then they closed (the building).” 

By then, however, the damage had been done.  

As several inches of water crept across the floors of the complex’s first-level apartments, people’s belongings became soaked and covered in mold, and electricity to the building was shut off. 

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