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The Lakes Are Open for Business!

May 13, 2011

There is so much devastation from the flooding in Southeast Missouri, and many government agencies and local not-for-profit groups are working round the clock to try to rescue and recover what is possible as the water hopefully starts receding along the Mississippi.   We will share more information about their efforts here soon.

In the meantime, flooding does continue in Southwest Missouri, too.  We live in a subdivision on the shore of Table Rock Lake, between the Chateau on the Lake and Big Cedar Lodge.  Unless you live near one of the lakes, you may not realize how high the water still is and how long it may stay that way. And you may not realize just how much water has passed through the lake on its way downstream. I recently received some pertinent details from David Casaletto through his weekly report  the Ozarks Water Watch, and  I thought I would share with you some numbers he shared with me. Here is his report:

The Corps tells us that the maximum release from the Table Rock Dam during this flood event was 68,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), a new record.

I Googled to see how many gallons are in a cubic foot and it is right at 7.5 gallons per cubic foot. So during the time of maximum release, over a half million gallons a second were being released into Lake Taneycomo. That’s 30 million gallons a minute or almost 2 billion gallons released in an hour. WOW! But more interesting is the amount of water that was coming into the lake.

The maximum inflow into the lake was almost 300,000 cfs or 2.25 million gallons a second and there were over 250,000 cfs or 6.75 billion gallons of water flowing into the lake every hour for more than 36 hours straight! These numbers make it very clear that the dam prevented a much greater flood event in Branson. Just imagine 250,000 cfs coming down the White River instead of the 68,000 that was being released.

Each lake in the White River chain has flood storage capacity. At Table Rock Lake for example, the top of the power pool or what you might call the “normal” lake level is 915′ elevation. The top of the flood pool is 930′ so there is 15′ of flood storage. The Table Rock Lake level maxed out at 935.47′ during this flood event or 5.5′ above the top of flood pool. (The max in 2008 flood event was 933.25′.) As I write this article, the lake level right now is at 931′.

Downstream from Table Rock is Bull Shoals Lake and it can hold a lot of water. It has 41′ of storage and it is a big lake. But the Bull Shoals lake level right now is less than 5′ from the top of its flood pool and when it fills up, the Corps has to quit releasing water and will not lower the lake levels much UNTIL certain levels are reached downstream in the White River (this assumes no new rainfall, too). (Visit our Facebook page for flood pictures).

It is a very complicated formula and I am not even going to try to explain it here, but the effect of this is that Table Rock Lake is not expected to reach 925′ until mid-summer, probably after the 4th of July. Of course, this all depends on how much new rain we receive. Since there is no longer any flood storage in any of our chain of lakes, any new water can and will have to be released as there is nowhere to put it. So if we would get another large rainfall event in the next month or two, the Corps would have to let that water pass through and more flooding could occur.

Now I know this all can be confusing but here are the conditions we will most likely see on the four Upper White River Basin Lakes if we do not have another large rain event. Beaver Lake is full and will be full most of the summer around the 1130′ mark. Table Rock probably will level off next week around 928′ and stay there for most of May and June and hopefully start falling in July. Taneycomo will see normal levels as Table Rock will not be sending much water through the dam and Bull Shoals will also be near full levels for a couple of months around 690′ to 695′.

Click on the name of each lake to take you to the hourly lake level:

Beaver      Table Rock       Bull Shoals

At these levels, the lakes are very much open and useable. Some facilities such as marinas, boat ramps and camping areas may be affected by high water but businesses will find ways to continue to serve the visitors, so remember, the lakes are open for business! As for me, I will get to my boat dock somehow, swim or float or extend the ramp and I will be out enjoying the lake. And I heard today, the white bass are biting at the dam. Let’s go fishing!

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