NY National Guard preparing for Lake Ontario flooding
New York Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Kevin Ward Ontario works a water pump on April 29th, 2020 New York Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Joint Task Force (JTF) Ontario, fill a water bladder at the Monroe County Sheriff Boat Launch on April 29th, 2020. The New York National Guard has mobilized 46 members of the New York Army National Guard, the New York Naval Militia, and the New York Guard, the state defense force, to respond to flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline. (Photo Credit: New York Guard Officer Candidate Michael Rehbaum) VIEW ORIGINAL

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – With water levels in Lake Ontario 4 feet higher than average, the New York National Guard put 46 members on state active duty to help control flooding.

This is in addition to 3,600 Guard members on duty as part of New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New York Army National Guard Soldiers, along with a few members of the New York Guard and New York Naval Militia – both state-only forces – installed several 250-foot lengths of water barriers and emplaced 9,324 sandbags to protect the Monroe County Sheriff boat launch since missions began April 27.

Joint Task Force Ontario, based out of the Thompson Road Armory in Syracuse, is working with local agencies identified on missions by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

“It feels good to be on my first state active duty mission, where I am helping out,” said Pfc. Ameer Jumadeen, a member of the 1156th Engineer Company and a resident of Queens. “This is why I enlisted.”

This is the fourth year the New York National Guard has been asked to control flooding on Lake Ontario.

In 2019, 627 New York Military Forces members took part in flood control missions from May to September. At one point, 400 personnel were on duty.

Heavy rains throughout the Great Lakes region, combined with flooding rivers in Ontario and Quebec, resulted in higher-than-normal water levels in Lake Ontario, according to the International Joint Commission. The commission regulates water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The members of Joint Task Force Ontario filled 293,060 sandbags and emplaced 385,460 sandbags.

The task force personnel also emplaced 9,508 feet of water-filled barriers in place of sandbags. New York Military Forces personnel moved eight pumps and installed 36 pumps moved by other entities in 2019.

While water levels are higher than average on Lake Ontario, they are still 6 inches lower than they were in May 2019, according to Command Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Peno, the New York National Guard’s meteorologist.

Water levels continue to fall, and are expected to drop an additional inch over the next 30 days, Peno said.

However, he cautioned, heavy storms could result in higher water levels.

Meanwhile, the members of Joint Task Force Lake Ontario are inventorying supplies and getting ready for missions.

“I have been in the Army National Guard for four years and it’s really great to directly help my community. I feel proud of the work that I’m doing here,” said Spc. Tom Biviano, an East Rochester resident assigned to the Headquarters and Service Company, 204th Engineer Battalion.

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