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Lake Wateree could exceed flood stage later this week

Posted: May 7, 2013 5:10 p.m.
Updated: May 8, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Duke Energy opened a gate by 15 feet at Cedar Creek, just upstream from Lake Wateree. According to a copy of an email message sent by Duke Energy to members of the Lake Wateree Association, the company opened the gate due to significant rainfall in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin.

“With Lake Wateree at 97.44 feet, it will rise at (more than) .1 foot/hour,” George A. Galleher, of Duke Energy’s Power Generation Hydro Operations and Compliance division, said in the email. “That translates to Lake Wateree being at 100 feet in 20 to 24 hours.”

The 100-foot level marks the lake’s flood stage, or “full pond.” Galleher said he expected that Lake Wateree would rise to, but not exceed more than, 2.5 feet above flood stage. Officials said the lake should reach full pond today and could rise the additional 2.5 feet later this week.

“As always, we encourage those living along lakes, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone areas to pay special attention to changing weather conditions and take any necessary precautions,” Galleher said.

Duke Energy released a statement to the press around noon Tuesday stating that it was “working quickly” to move high water through the basin. It noted that the region has received 11 inches or more of rain in recent days.

“We received about three months of rain in three days in the upper Catawba River Basin,” Randy Herrin, general manager of the hydro fleet, said. “As the upper Catawba begins to stabilize, our focus is on public safety and balancing the upper basin with the lower to minimize impacts to lakeside residents as much as possible. Duke Energy works closely with emergency management officials during high water and flooding conditions to provide information to help ensure they can make appropriate public action decisions.”

Duke Energy said some streams and tributaries are flowing at 50 to 100 times their normal volumes. It said the company is managing the river by passing water through spillways or floodgates, such as the one at Cedar Creek, at the lakes it manages in the basin. However, it said it had not yet done so at Lake Wateree, but that “the company expects Lake Wateree to spill sometime early Wednesday.”

Lisa Hoffman, of Duke Energy’s corporate communications office, explained that while the Cedar Creek flood gate had been opened, it would not open any gates at the Lake Wateree dam north of Camden until it reaches “full pond” sometime today.

In certain low-lying areas, Duke Energy said, it may need to disconnect electricity for safety reasons. If so, the company said it would provide as much notice as possible to customers. Duke said it would reconnect those customers once local officials indicate it is safe to do so.

“High water can create hazardous conditions, and we encourage residents to be alert and adhere to the advice of local emergency management officials,” Herrin said. “We appreciate our customers’ patience and cooperation while we manage these high flows.”

Duke Energy officials also provided the following suggested safety measures for high water conditions:

• People who live along lakes and rivers and in other low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding should pay close attention to local media for changing weather conditions and rising lake and river levels.

• Know your area’s flood risk. During rains that have lasted for several hours or even several days, be attentive to the chance of flooding.

• High water conditions and debris can create navigational hazards and the public should use caution and adhere to the advice of local emergency management officials before going on lakes or rivers.

• Those living along lakes and rivers should move loose objects away from the shoreline to prevent creating additional navigational hazards.

• Members of the public who have electric service to facilities (piers, outside lighting on seawalls, etc.) on or near the water, should have a qualified electrical contractor de-energize this service to avoid injuries and equipment damage.

Those wishing to monitor Lake Wateree levels can do so at www.duke-energy.com/lakes/levels.asp. Interested persons can also call the Duke’s lake information line at 1-800-829-5253.

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