Corps Of Engineers On Oklahoma Lake Flood Watch

Tuesday, June 16th 2015, 6:19 pm
By: Tess Maune

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going back on 24-hour flood watch to prepare for a potentially troubling rise in lake and river levels. They've been releasing water for several weeks from Keystone Dam.

Keystone Lake is always a large concern for the Corps because there's such a large population below the dam. Right now our weather experts say models show this area likely won't see 6,7,8 inches of rainfall that could cause huge problems.

But places down south, like Lake Eufaula will, and it still a ways from fully recovering from the last round of floods.

The debris line shows there has been some relief. Lake levels have dropped. But with a tropical storm spinning toward Oklahoma, the Corps of Engineers says the water is sure to rise again.

"For what we know now this could be the second of a double-punch," said Earl Groves, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Earl Groves, the Chief Operating Officer for the Tulsa District, says the Corps' water management team is preparing for round two. The lakes they're watching especially closely are Texoma, Eufaula, Hugo, Broken Bow, Pine Creek and Sardis.

But until the rain actually gets here - all hydrologists, like Greg Estep, can do is wait.

"Since we don't know whether it's gonna fall above our projects or below, we wait til the water's on the ground, or at least until the rain has fallen," said Greg Estep, Hydrology & Hydraulics Branch Chief.

6/15/2015 Related Story: High Lake Levels Hurting Business, Tax Revenues On Keystone Lake

Once the rain starts falling, hydrologists will track it in almost real time through stream gauges in the rivers. That will tell them how much water is coming in and how fast - which in turn, will help determine how much water needs to be released from each lake.

"We've got enough room for it, but it's gonna put those reservoirs back where they were three weeks ago at the very top of their pool elevations," Groves said.

Just a few week ago, Lake Eufaula was more than 100 percent full. It has dropped but is still 7 feet above normal.

Estep says the predicted rain for that area's watershed could send it back into that dangerous zone.

"By the time water gets to that level, we have to keep opening gates until we have all the gates wide open and if it goes above that, it's just basically, we try to match inflow at that point," he said.

The Corps has actually drawn back on how much water it's releasing from many of the lakes in its system. Hydrologists say they haven't been letting out more to help give relief to downstream communities that have been dealing with extreme flooding.