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Lake levels surged with last week's intense rain/ice/snow storm

Springfield News-Leader (Missouri) logo Springfield News-Leader (Missouri) 1/17/2020 Wes Johnson, Springfield News-Leader
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Last week's rain, ice and snow storm dumped more than 4 inches of precipitation on the Ozarks, sending a surge of water that raised some of our biggest lakes 4 feet or more higher.

More rain and ice is on the way Thursday night into Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Springfield. A half-inch or more of precipitation is expected to add to what has already flowed into area lakes.

In Springfield, City Utilities' primary drinking water lakes — Fellows Lake and McDaniel Lake — filled to the brim and overflowed their spillways for the first time in months. 

"Looking at yesterday’s data, both lakes are completely full at 100% with a combined supply of 11.55 billion gallons," according to CU spokesman Joel Alexander. 

water next to the ocean: Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir, which holds part of Springfield's water supply, to capacity. © Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir, which holds part of Springfield's water supply, to capacity.

CU had been drawing water from the James River to be processed at its Blackman water treatment plant on the city's east side. But last week's torrential rain put so much silt and debris into the river that CU switched to pulling cleaner water from Fellows Lake.

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The storm had another upside for CU water customers. Stockton Lake, about 40 miles north of Springfield, rose more than 4 feet from the storm event. CU has access to millions of gallons of water from Stockton Lake, which it can pump to Fellows Lake through a long pipeline — if the lake reaches an elevation of 867 feet.

a body of water: A whirlpool churns below Powersite Dam near Forsyth the day after the Ozarks got more than 4 inches of rain last week. © Jim Viebrock A whirlpool churns below Powersite Dam near Forsyth the day after the Ozarks got more than 4 inches of rain last week.

"As of yesterday (Tuesday), Stockton shows 868.4 and our reset is at 867," Alexander said. "All is in good shape, but you know we always want customers, and really everyone, to use water wisely and conserve whenever possible."

Beaver Lake rose 4.4 feet

Upstream from Table Rock Lake, Beaver Lake in Arkansas rose 4.4 feet and filled about halfway into its flood pool level, said Nathaniele Keen, water management chief with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock, Arkansas. On Tuesday the lake level was at 1,125 feet — 5 feet below the top of its flood pool.  

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The Corps had to open Beaver Lakes' spillway gates to start lowering the lake level because the dam's hydropower turbines were offline for maintenance.

Table Rock up about 5 feet

That water eventually flows into Table Rock Lake, which rose more than 4 feet but has crested and is already slowly going back down, Keen said.

"Most of the excess water is being released through the (power-generating) turbines, but we also had five of the 10 spillway gates open yesterday," Keen said.  

a group of people standing next to a body of water: Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir to capacity. © Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir to capacity.

Table Rock's elevation was 919 feet on Tuesday, well below the top of its designed flood management pool level of 931 feet. The lake still has a significant amount of room to handle big rains.

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Water from Table Rock Lake flows into Lake Taneycomo, which was created by a dam near Forsyth. A video from Jan. 11 taken below the Powersite Dam shows a massive whirlpool churning below the dam.

Bull Shoals up nearly 6 feet

Lake Taneycomo eventually empties into Bull Shoals Lake, which Keen said had come up almost 6 feet from the storm event and from water coming down from Beaver and Table Rock lakes.

On Tuesday, Bull Shoals was at 665 feet — well below the top of its flood pool elevation of 695 feet.

Last weekend's big rain was unusual for the middle of winter, and Keen said Corps lake managers will be keeping a close eye on water levels ahead of typical spring rains.

"I wouldn't call that an extreme event, but it did get our attention," Ken said. "It was more than a normal rainfall event."

a body of water: Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir, which supplies water to Springfield, to capacity. © Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader Water flows into the spillway at the Fellows Lake dam on Tuesday. Recent rains have filled the reservoir, which supplies water to Springfield, to capacity.

The Corps office in Kansas City manages Stockton Lake and Truman Lake.

Corps spokesman David Kolarik said Stockton is presently at elevation 871.6, which is 4.6 feet above normal.  

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"This represents 15% of the total storage capability of the flood control pool," he said. "The top of the flood control pool is elevation 892.0."

Truman reservoir, which last year endured intense flooding, is currently 5.7 feet above normal, Kolarik said. 

"This represents 9% of the total storage capability of the flood control pool," he said. "The top of the flood control pool is elevation 739.6. So, there is a lot of room remaining at each lake to hold additional runoff from future rain events."

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Kolarik said that so far both Stockton and Truman lakes are emptying water through their power-generating turbines, instead of through spillway gates. The extra rainfall gives the Corps an opportunity to generate more hydropower as it lowers the lake levels.

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He said the Corps wasn't worried about Friday's predicted storms.

"No. All the District lake projects are operated to temporarily capture runoff from rainfall events and then release that water downstream in a controlled manner, regardless of the season," he said.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Lake levels surged with last week's intense rain/ice/snow storm

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