MIDDLE BASS ISLAND, Ohio — Record high water levels in the month of May caused flooding along Lake Erie, and on Middle Bass Island, residents have dealt with high water and flooding for weeks.
Don Massey, who spends May through October each year on Middle Bass Island, works for Miller Boat Line. He said the number of passengers on the ferry to the island seems to be down this year as a result of the high water.
"As I recall, the water levels this year are as much or maybe even greater than the worst I ever saw," Massey said. "The worst, I think it was 1986, and this could probably be as bad if not worse."
According to Keith Koralewski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "the monthly high for May 2019 exceeded the previous monthly high set in May of 1986," and the current lake levels are above the monthly record high for June, though the Army Corps of Engineers won't know until the end of the month whether the record for June will be broken.
The high lake levels and heavy rain have combined to bring flooding and high water to parts of Middle Bass Island, leaving yards underwater and roads submerged.
"Your first concern is apprehension on whether you should go through it or not," Massey said.
Massey took News 5 reporter Olivia Fecteau in his Jeep through the flooded roads to demonstrate what the high water looked like up close. He said someone he knew had a good rule for driving on flooded roads: "If you find yourself on smooth road, you’re probably not on the road."
Massey said many cottages weren't ready for the summer as a result of high water.
"So those people, there’s no sense in them coming up," Massey said. "First of all, they can’t get to it. It’s pretty much inaccessible. And even if they get in there, what are they gonna do?"
Flooding aside, Massey said he was concerned about other issues the high water may bring along with it
"We’ll weather this just fine," Massey said. "But in the long run, the things that do worry me immediately will be, of course, the insects and the mosquitoes this summer [and] the repair of the roads."
Ernie Hisey, a professor emeritus at Cleveland State University, lives on the island during the spring and summer months.
"It’s more difficult now than it’s ever been in the 34 years we’ve been here," Hisey said.
Hisey said he and others on the island have accepted that the high water is a problem that may not go away anytime soon, and it's something to which Hisey said longtime residents have learned to adapt.
"But it’s just annoying and aggravating and difficult to get to their houses and get away from their houses, to the ferry boat, back to the ferry boat or go to the store or restaurants," Hisey said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' forecast for Lake Erie predicts the lake level will drop two inches by July 1.