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Heading outdoors this weekend? Here's what to consider in the wake of heavy rain and flooding

Elm Brook in Hopkinton
Rebecca Lavoie
Elm Brook recreation area in Hopkinton has been flooded after extensive rain

After all the heavy rain lately, you might be even more eager than normal to get out and enjoy the warm weather this weekend. But as people prepare to enjoy the trails, waters or other outdoor activities, state and park authorities are urging caution and consideration of potential environmental damage.

Recent storms have caused flooding and dam breaches throughout New Hampshire. Some trail systems and other recreation sites are closed due to storm damage, including many locations maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

State safety and environmental officials issued a joint statement Friday, urging anyone heading out on the water to be vigilant due to high water levels. They warned boaters to consider debris like tree limbs and broken docks, which can be hidden by dark and high water. They also said people should be on alert for swift currents and other hazards.

The state agencies said they are monitoring bacteria levels in lakes and rivers after this week's high rainfall. People should stay out of the water if they see oil slicks and runoff from roads and breached dams in the water, they said.

Lake Sunapee is among the bodies of water affected by severe flooding, with some of its lighthouses, docks and shorelines washed out from rising water levels.

Elizabeth Harper, executive director of the Lake Sunapee Protective Association, said they are asking people to sign a no-wake pledge: a promise to use boats and other watercraft, like jet skis, at slower speeds.

“Even if it doesn't rain, if we have a huge amount of activity on the lake and people are creating wakes, we're going to see a lot of additional damage done to people's property and to our shorelines,” Harper said.

Wakes created at high speeds can erode the shoreline, where the soil nutrients can help unhealthy cyanobacteria flourish, potentially harming the drinking water supply and causing long-lasting damage.

“We're concerned about inundated septic systems, also,” Harper said.

The flooding earlier this week also closed down ATV trail networks, particularly in northern New Hampshire, though some have since reopened. The Great North Woods Riders ATV Club said some of its trails were back open as of Friday afternoon, but all of the trails are damaged and riders should still proceed carefully.

"Go slow, expect washouts at any point!” they wrote on Facebook.

Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.
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