While our neighbors to the south continue to have to monitor the output from Dale Hollow Dam (shown above) and Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland, Monroe County’s residents on the eastern border kept their focus glued to the rising Cumberland River.
While Monroe County had just finished 2018 with 65.01” of precipitation (up over 14” over 2017, over 7.7” of rain poured down on the entire southeast Kentucky and northcentral Tennessee in a week’s time, swelling creeks from their banks and filling both Lake Cumberland and Dale Hollow to historical levels. This brought Monroe County’s totals to 18.37” for the 54 days of 2019, 36 of which recorded precipitation.
In response to the rising river waters in the Turkey Neck Bend area, the state-operated ferry closed through the night on Thursday, Feb. 21 – reopened a short time on Friday, then closed again for safety reasons and has remained closed.
Monroe Countians left stranded on the east side of the river were forced to stay at home or face a round trip over 100 miles to attend work or school.
Monroe County Schools Superintendent Amy Thompson noted that those students stranded on the other side of the river would be excused from absences due to the ferry shut down and safety concerns.
Cumberland County’s Emergency Management also released information that due to the amount of rainfall, and the water being released from Wolf Creek Dam, the area was experiencing flooding and the Cumberland River has risen to historic levels.
With the continued heavy rains and run off, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were forced to release the largest ever quantities of water from the lake at Wolf Creek Dam, which could exacerbate flooding of low-lying areas along the Cumberland River below the dam, including Monroe County.
Until this week, water managers at the Corps’ District headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., said the largest amount of water ever released from the dam is 40,000 cubic feet per second in January 1974. However, releases at Wolf Creek Dam rose to the maximum 60,000 cfs by noon on Sunday — the absolute maximum the river can carry downstream.
Saturday afternoon the level of Lake Cumberland stood at 749.74 feet, the highest observation since the record of 751.69 set in May 1984 with more than 70% of the flood control pool in the lake was being utilized.
Officials with the Corp said that 60,000 cfs means that water will completely fill the river channel downstream of the dam. Coupled with rain runoff it will impact low-lying areas and cause some backwater with other small streams that run into the river,
The Corps of Engineers worked with state officials to communicate with landowners downstream and to get the word out about these increases for public safety. The Nashville District is communicating with the Louisville District Emergency Management Operations Center and they are in turn communicating with Kentucky Emergency Management in Frankfort.
Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, said, “With the expectation of additional heavy rainfall, we are constantly monitoring developments in the State Emergency Operations Center. Communities and citizens are asked to be on high alert for continuing flooding conditions. Emergency preparedness is key – have a plan and act on that plan.”
Anthony Rodino, Nashville District Water Management Section chief, continues to reinforce the message that the Nashville District has to increase releases to regain storage in the reservoir.
The flood control pool at Lake Cumberland spans elevations 723 to 760, which allocates 2,094,000 acre feet of storage in the pool and allows for storage of 6.78 inches of rainfall runoff from the 5,789 square-mile watershed.
In calendar year 2019, Corps’ rain gages have recorded a basin average rainfall total of 16.2 inches in the Wolf Creek watershed.
Residents can contact emergency managers for Monroe County at 270-487-5505 for more information about the releases; and well as other county contacts for Russell County at 270-343-2112, Ext. 1402; Clinton County at 606-387-8636; Cumberland County at 270-864-2511, Ext. 339; and Wayne County at 606-348-3302
Dossett adds: “We are asking that everyone remain vigilant during these flooding conditions and continue to monitor the developing high-water issues.”
In addition, the Clay County (Tenn.) area south must also contend with the releases from the Dale Hollow Dam on the Obey River. Until Monday, the dam’s flood gates had remained closed to allow the Cumberland River levels to stabilize. However, the Corp began releases during the day on Monday for short periods to begin to lower the levels at Dale Hollow from the historical highs already being recorded.
For more information and to stay up to date on closings, flooded areas and emergency information, follow the Monroe County Press/Tompkinsvvillenews Facebook page or go to www.tompkinsvillenews.com