Sodus Point stays strong amid flooding
SODUS POINT — For businesses in a community whose lifeblood is the waters of Lake Ontario and scenic Sodus Bay, Memorial Day weekend is their Black Friday — the unofficial beginning of the vacation season when the village population swells with tourists and seasonal residents.
But this year is different. The continually rising waters of the lake — which some blame on new water regulations — have ravaged the private and public beach at Sodus Point and taken huge chunks of lakeshore properties in the village and all along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.
Meanwhile, water laps at the decks of the venerable restaurant and entertainment spot Captain Jack’s on Greig Street, as well as owner Tom Frank’s newest establishment, Marlin’s, which sits next door. The restaurant takes the place of the former Abe’s Waterfront, and it has, as one would expect from the name, a nautical theme. The entire interior is remodeled.
On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the restaurant is empty, which manager Abby Hogan attributed more to the rotten spring weather than the flooding that has plagued the Wayne County village for weeks.
Abby Hogan is manager of the two restaurants, where the hum of pumps can be heard all along the village’s downtown, sitting right on top of a very high Sodus Bay.
Next door at Captain Jack’s, which Hogan also manages, there’s a good lunchtime crowd.
“We’re still busy at Jack’s,” she said, adding that business has been pretty strong at Marlin’s as well, considering what has been happening in Sodus Point over the last two months. The restaurant opened in March.
Still, the real money for the restaurants and the other businesses in Sodus Point is made during the summer, and she and other businesses remain hopeful that conditions will improve.
However, patronizing the restaurants and businesses along Greig Street is not easy right now. The street was blocked off to traffic Thursday, with motorists urged to use municipal parking lots. Down the way on what is called “the loop,” where flooding has been a an even bigger problem, highway crews were working.
And up the street at the Sodus Point fire hall, National Guard members deployed by the state were falling out for another detail to support flood-prevention and relief efforts.
While Captain Jack’s has been able to stay open, it has not been easy, Hogan notes. Seeping bay waters forced the restaurant to build up the floor where the bartenders work. Otherwise, said Hogan, they’d be standing in water.
But it’s shared misery, Hogan emphasized.
“It’s just everybody — homeowners, marinas, restaurants. It affects everyone.”
And conversely, she said the mentality works in a positive way as well. Village residents and businesses are supporting each other. Whether it’s getting out and spending money at village businesses or helping folks lay sandbags, the response to the flood has shown the best of Sodus Point, she said.
At the restaurants, said Hogan, “we’ve been lucky to keep everybody employed, and our employees have been very understanding” about the need to adjust hours based on business.
She urged visitors to come down to try Marlin’s, which she said is a bit more upscale than Captain Jack’s with a variety of seafood, steaks and Italian dishes.
Hogan noted a new Facebook page, #soduspointstrong, where merchants and residents post heartfelt messages, while they urge customers to not let the flooding deter a trip to the picturesque village for dinner or shopping.
“We’ll get through this if we just all stick together as a community,” said Hogan.
That thought was echoed by Sue Conant, who owns Sodus Point Fudge and Gifts with her husband, Richard.
“Don’t be deterred,” said Conant, whose shop on Greig Street also features River Rat Cheese, swim wear, shirts and much more.
They’re pretty dry, she said, noting they recently put in a new 9-inch concrete base in the store, which they opened in 2010.
Still, it’s hard not to notice the effects of the high waters. The bay was pretty much at street level on Wickham Boulevard, the road that leads to Sodus Point Park. Water was spilling into the street due to a pump that ran out of fuel. The park itself is closed.
Wayne County Public Works Director Kevin Rooney and other county staff, including sheriff’s deputies, were at the park Thursday.
The public beach does not normally open until July, but the county would normally be prepping the beach by this time.
“We are not ready to open the beach yet,” said Rooney. “There is a lot of debris and erosion that has occurred, and we have not had any time to commit to cleanup yet. We are also concerned that until the lake levels drop a bit, any repair work could be quickly erased with high wave action.”
Indeed, the beach is strewn with debris, mostly tree branches. The width of the beach appeared to have shrunken significantly because of the high lake waters and erosion.
Pumps have been placed at low points all around the village.
Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts noted Thursday that a state of emergency remains in effect for the entire Lake Ontario shoreline, including an idle-only order, meaning all vessels must operate at idle in any of the bays and anywhere within 500 feet of lakeshore.
A significant amount of floating and submerged debris is in the water, and operators are advised to use extreme caution when navigating the lake and bay, Virts said.
In the event of severe weather, there may be additional emergency orders issued, said Virts.
As for boating, most floating and many fixed docks are under water, resulting in few boats in the bay’s marinas just a day ahead of the holiday weekend.
Wayne County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve LeRoy, who is also Sodus town supervisor, noted that sandbags, which can be seen all around the village, are still available at the local town and village highway barns and at various locations in the town of Huron, which is also on Sodus Bay.
Sandbags should only be used to protect homes, said the county Emergency Management Office. Residents are advised to not place sandbags on break walls. Additionally, said the agency, sandbags are not effective for preventing erosion and may make the problem worse. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recommended stacking sandbags five levels high and interweaving plastic film.
Anyone having trouble dealing with the challenges of dealing with the stress of the flooding is encouraged to call Wayne County Behavioral Health at (315) 946-5722 for assistance.