Good chance spillway gates will not be opened, only rain and time will tell

CSRA News

CLARKS HILL, SC (WJBF) – Flooding is being seen across the CSRA. Some homeowners report the Savannah River and other waterways are spilling out of their banks. While this happens, all eyes are on when the flood gates on the dam will be opened.

There have been several raining events and if it persist spillway gates on the dam could be released if water at the lake reaches a critical level. However, at this point, the Army Corps of Engineers said it does not look likely.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of rainfall over the last three months,” reported Scott Hyatt, Operations Project Manager with J. Strom Thurmond Lake.

High lake levels, rising river waters, flooding in and around homes with boat docks disappearing and lawns completed water covered. That’s the scene around the CSRA in both Georgia and South Carolina.

The Army Corps of Engineers told NewsChannel 6 it’s all due to a record amount of rainfall since December that is almost double the normal average.

“There are no leaves on the trees. The trees are not actively growing. Most of that water that’s coming down is running off and coming into the rivers and lakes that are around us,” Hyatt said. “That has driven lake levels up well above our normal averages for this time of year and into our flood pool.”

Hyatt said all eyes are on the area’s three bodies of water; Lake Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake. Thurmond lake is now three feet into the flood pool.

“A lot of the high water that you’re seeing now is a result of us evacuating that water out of the flood pool. If we go more than five feet above our normal elevation, water goes over the top of our spillway gates. At five feet we’re forced to open them and I haven’t had to do that yet,” he said. “Prognosis is good right now that we will not have to.”

Also, Hyatt said it’s all up to the rain and what it does to lake levels. Worst case, the increase forces those spillway gates open and people down river get hit hard. Others, Hyatt said, have little to worry about.

“The system is designed to protect Augusta from flooding,” Hyatt explained. “We try to get Thurmond emptied out first so that you have more flood storage closest to the city. That way if Hartwell has to let water out, Thurmond’s got some space to catch it.”

At this point the Corps is on watch as it rains. Hyatt said the earliest we could see action is Thursday.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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