A contact at the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) said that the flooding to our Muskoka lakes this year was caused by the “perfect storm” of both branches of the Muskoka River having their peak run-off converging at the same time, whereas they are usually staggered. That combination made the flood waters flow right over the top of the dam in Bracebridge. This flood was started by a combination of the unusually heavy rains we had, combined with the faster than usual snowmelt that the warm temperatures and torrential rain created.
The water levels in Lake Muskoka got to more than 70cm above mid-summer conditions and 50cm above average spring conditions. This is the highest they have seen water levels in this lake since they started recording about 80 yrs ago.
The greatest damage to property was along the Muskoka River, as that is where the flooding was deepest.
During flood conditions boaters on the lakes must remember to not create any wakes close to shore, as so many valuable water craft are in delicate situations inside boathouses, and the shoreline itself is in a delicate position. Many boats are on boat lifts but the water has raised them up a bit, so that the wake from a fast passing boat will make them bang up and down on the lift, potentially causing serious and costly damage. Heavy boat wake can also move the contents of the boathouses, or the docks, around causing more property to be lost or damaged.
The wake from a fast moving boat is especially hard on the shorelines at a time of flooding such as this, as the waves are hitting in a spot that is not prepared to hold back the water , and the water can easily dig the soil and plants away. Numerous pines trees have become dislodged and other costly landscaping has been ruined close to the Falls at Bracebridge, and all along the river.
Some cottagers have had to put sandbags around their places to stop the rising water from entering their cottage basement. Boat wake makes the water splash up over the sand bags and allows it to get into the cottage.
One friend told us that if the water goes much higher he will need to take the windshield off his boat so it doesn’t bang on the ceiling of the boathouse. The problem is that the water is too high to be able to get the boats out of the boathouses, and so the rising water is floating the boats up closer to the ceilings of the structures.
The ships from the Muskoka fleet are also in danger during high water events. Their boat fenders are useless when the water is high.
Many properties on both the river and the lake have lost their docks. The water pressure pushing upward is popping dock tops right off the cribs, and sometimes floating them right away. There will be a lot of construction happening around Muskoka this year to clean the mess created by this flood.
The last ‘record flood’ was in 2008, and this current flood of 2013 is several inches higher than the last one was. Looks like climate change may make flooding a more regular event than we would like it to be.
Evaluate your property and your routines to see how you can be better prepared for the next flood. Might it be a good plan to put numerous large barrels of water, with a concrete block inside, on spacious docks to give them some additional weight to try to keep them down, as the rising flood water are trying to force them up?
Perhaps nothing should be stored within 3 feet of the floor in your boathouse, and dock boxes should be moved off the dock for the winter and spring seasons.
Perhaps keeping a key in a lockbox, on site, would enable friends or neighbours to more easily check on your cottage or boathouse for you. Many cottagers had no way to let a volunteer into their boathouse to get the doors up or the hydro, off as this flood started.
Best wishes that your Muskoka property survived this trial well