WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Essex Region Conservation Authority has issued a long-term flood watch due to the elevated lake levels.

The entire region was under a flood watch for more than six months last year.

There are elevated lake levels in Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the other lakes in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system.

“Unless superseded by a Flood Warning, this Flood Watch will remain in effect until further notice,” said James Bryant, ERCA’s Water Resources Engineer. “Conditions will be continuously monitored and re-evaluated with weekly updates based on short and long-range weather forecasts.

Bryant said it should be noted that water levels are not anticipated to peak until June-July 2020.

“Therefore, our office is advising residents to take proper caution, especially near shoreline areas where conditions can change quickly based on wind speed and direction,” said Bryant.

Bryant said it is the region’s fifth year of rising/high lake levels.

These high levels along with strong sustained winds caused several municipalities in the region to experience flooding during the last weekend of March.

ERCA said high lake levels are also causing downstream reaches of tributaries to remain elevated, causing runoff in ditches and streams to drain even slower than normal.

Current preliminary information for the month of March 2020 indicates that Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie are roughly 21 centimetres and 29 cm above their respective averages in 2019. These values surpass previous records for the month of March set in 1986 by roughly three cm and seven cm, respectively.

As a result of the elevated lake levels, relatively mild winds are able to rapidly raise water levels and generate waves capable of overtopping shoreline structures.

ERCA said nearshore erosion rates are increased due to high water levels, further increasing the risk of damaging infrastructure and increasing the risk of flooding. Tributaries remain high due to the elevated static lake level, increasing the risk of riverine flooding.

“We would also like to remind people to refrain from driving over flooded roadways,”said Bryant. “Vehicles travelling over water-covered roads are exacerbating the problem for flooded landowners. Vehicle-generated wakes push additional floodwaters into people’s homes.”