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What LCKC boathouse looks like after Lake Lanier reaches third highest level in history
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Rising Lake Lanier levels Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, flood the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club boathouse. About two feet of water flooded the lower level of the boathouse where boats are stored. - photo by Scott Rogers

On a typical day, Jim O’Dell walks down the stairs to the bottom floor of the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club and weaves his way through the boats and equipment stacked on racks throughout the boathouse.

On Monday, Feb. 25, he was stopped by about a foot of water as he reached the bottom of the staircase.

Since Feb. 16, Gainesville has received 6.71 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. On Feb. 24, Lake Lanier peaked at 1,076.13 feet above sea level — more than 6 feet above winter full pool, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s the highest its been since 1977, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is the third-highest recorded water level on record since lake levels have been recorded on Lanier.

With Lake Lanier already at a high level for winter, O’Dell knew the flooding was a possibility. He and volunteers with the club placed sandbags outside the rolling garage doors to the boathouse to keep the rising waters out, but they weren’t high enough. The water rose more than a foot above the sand bags.

Lake Lanier flooding

Lake Lanier reached its highest level since 1977 on Feb. 24. The water rose so high, it flooded the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club boathouse.
By: Layne Saliba

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It’s the worst flooding O’Dell  — who’s been around the club since the 1990s — said he’s seen.

“The amount of silt and mud this is going to leave behind is nasty,” O’Dell, the high performance and dragon boat coach at the LCKC, said of the water in the boathouse. “It was totally clear Saturday, now it’s not.”

Some boats inside the boathouse were floating around, no longer on racks. Some were upside down, filled with water. Cloth boat covers and paddles were under water, too.

Apart from putting sandbags in place, the club took many weights and weight benches from the weight room and moved them up the stairs to make sure they weren’t destroyed by the water.

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Rising water levels flood the boathouse Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club.
Lake Lanier water level record highs

  • April 14, 1964: 1,077.15 feet above sea level
  • April 5, 1977: 1,076.20
  • Feb. 24, 2019: 1,076.13
  • March 30, 1980: 1,076.05
  • April 15, 1979: 1,075.99
  • April 1, 1976: 1,075.75
  • Dec. 31, 2015: 1,075.43

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Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak coach Scott Surles goes for a run Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, along the flooded grandstand of Lake Lanier Olympic Park. - photo by Scott Rogers

“We need vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, and a bunch of it,” O’Dell said. “The weight room, there’s just going to be mold.”

He said it could take a couple of weeks with no rain for the flooding to recede and enable him to begin the cleaning process. Once the water is out of the boathouse, he will be able to pressure wash the walls and floors and begin disinfecting the whole place along with the equipment.

O’Dell said it’s time to start looking for solutions to the flooding. He said it’s the fourth flood in three years, so he’s beginning to realize “we’ve got some problems.”

“Maybe when we start to do renovations to this side, maybe we add concrete to this floor and raise it up a few more inches,” O’Dell said. “I don’t know, though. We’re talking about feet (of flood waters).”

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Rising water levels flood the boathouse Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club.

The hardest part of it all for O’Dell is the paddlers who won’t be able to get out on the water to train, especially with the U.S. team trials for sprint canoe and kayak coming up in about six weeks. It’s all about safety; so for now, all O’Dell and the rest of the athletes can do is wait.

“This puts us behind the eight-ball, so to speak,” O’Dell said “We prefer them not to (practice), because who knows how much bacteria is in that water.”

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Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club high performance coach Jim O"Dell, left, and coach Scott Surles observe the flooding Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at the LCKC boathouse area. About two feet of water flooded the lower level of the boathouse where boats are stored. - photo by Scott Rogers